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60123 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 



RECOLLECTIONS OF NAVAL LIFE 




CAPT. A^'MAHAN P 

U.S.N. (RETIRED) 

AUTHOR OF 
" THE INFLUENCE OF SEA- POWER UPON HISTORY " ETC. 




HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS 

NEW YORK AND LONDON 

MCMVII 



BOSTON COLLEGE LIBRARY 
CatSTNUT HILL, MASS. 



Copyright, 1906, 1907, by Harper & Brothers. 

All rights reserved. 
Published October, 1907. 



CONTENTS 



CHAP. PAGE 

Preface v 

Introducing Myself ix 

I. Naval Conditions Before the War of Secession — the 

Officers and Seamen 3 

II. Naval Conditions Before the War of Secession — the 

Vessels 25 

III. The Naval Academy in its Relation to the Navy at 

Large 45 

IV. The Naval Academy in its Interior Workings — Prac- 

tice Cruises 70 

V. My First Cruise after Graduation — Nautical Char- 

acters 103 

VI. My First Cruise after Graduation — Nautical Scenes 

and Scenery — the Approach of Disunion . . . . 127 

VII. Incidents of War and Blockade Service 156 

VIII. Incidents of War and Blockade Service — Continued 179 

IX. A Roundabout Road to China 196 

X. China and Japan 229 

XI. The Turning of a Long Lane — Historical, Naval, and 

Personal 266 

XII. Experiences of Authorship 302 



PREFACE 

When I was a boy, some years before I obtained my 
appointment in the navy, I spent many of those happy 
hours that only childhood knows poring over the back 
numbers of a British service periodical, which began its 
career in 1828, with the title Golburn^s United Service Mag- 
azine; under which name, save and except the Colburn, it 
still survives. Besides weightier matters, its early issues 
abounded in reminiscences by naval officers, then yet in 
the prime of life, who had served through the great Napo- 
leonic wars. More delightful still, it had numerous nautical 
stories, based probably on facts, serials under such en- 
trancing titles as "Leaves from my Log Book," by Flexible 
Grommet, Passed Midshipman; a pen-name, the nautical 
felicity of which will be best appreciated by one who has 
had the misfortune to handle a grommet^ which was not 
flexible. Then there was "The Order Book," by Jonathan 
Oldjunk; an epithet so suggestive of the waste-heap, even 
to a landsman's ears, that one marvels a man ever took it 
unto himself, especially in that decline of life when we are 
more sensitive on the subject of bodily disabilities than 
once we were. Old junk, however, can yet be "worked 
up," as the sea expression goes, into other uses, and that 
perhaps was what Mr. Oldjunk meant; his early adventures 
as a young "luff" were, for economical reasons, worked up 

* Worcester, quoting from Falconer's Marine Dictionary, defines 
"Grommet" as "a small ring or wreath, formed of the strand of a 
rope, used for various purposes." 

V 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

into their present literary shape, with the addition of a 
certain amount of extraneous matter — love-making, and the 
like. Indeed, so far from uselessness, that veteran seaman 
and rigid economist, the Earl of St. Vincent, when First 
Lord of the Admiralty, had given to a specific form of 
old junk — viz., "shakings" — the honors of a special order, 
for the preservation thereof, the which forms the staple 
of a comical anecdote in Basil Hall's Fragments of 
Voyages and Travels; itself a superior example of the in- 
structive "recollections," of less literary merit, which but 
for Colburn's would have perished. 

Any one who has attempted to write history knows what 
queer nuggets of useful information lie hidden away in such 
papers; how they often help to reconstruct an incident, or 
determine a mooted point. If the Greeks, after the Pelo- 
ponnesian war, had had a Colburn's, we should have a more 
certain, if not a perfect, clew to the reconstruction of the 
trireme; and probably even could deduce with some 
accuracy the daily routine, the several duties, and hear the 
professional jokes and squabbles, of their oflficers and crews. 
The serious people who write history can never fill the place 
of the gossips, who pour out an unpremeditated mixture 
of intimate knowledge and idle trash. 

Trash? Upon the whole is not the trash the truest his- 
tory? perhaps not the most valuable, but the most real? 
If you want contemporary color, contemporary atmosphere, 
you must seek it among the impressions which can be ob- 
tained only from those who have lived a life amid particu- 
lar surroundings, which they breathe and which colors them 
— dyes them in the wool. However skilless, they cannot 
help reproducing, any more than water poured from an old 
ink-bottle can help coming out more or less black; although, 
if sufficiently pretentious, they can monstrously caricature, 
especially if they begin with the modest time-worn ad- 
mission that they are more familiar with the marlingspike 

vi 



PREFACE 

than with the pen. But even the caricature born of pre- 
tentiousness will not prevent the unpremeditated be- 
trayal of conditions, facts, and incidents, which help re- 
construct the milieu; how much more, then, the unaffected 
simplicity of the born story-teller. I do not know how 
Froissart ranks as an authority with historians. I have 
not read him for years; and my recollections are chiefly 
those of childhood, with all the remoteness and all the 
vividness which memory preserves from early impressions. 
I think I now might find him wearisome; not so in boy- 
hood. He was to me then, and seems to me now, a glorified 
Flexible Grommet or Jonathan Oldjunk; ranking, as to 
them, as Boswell does towards the common people of 
biography. That there are many solid chunks of useful 
information to be dug out of him I am sure ; that his stories 
are all true, I have no desire to question; but what among 
it all is so instructive, so entertaining, as the point of view 
of himself, his heroes, and his coUoquists — the particular 
contemporary modification of universal human nature in 
which he lived, and moved, and had his being? 

If such a man has the genius of his business, as had Frois- 
sart and Boswell, he excels in proportion to his unconscious- 
ness of the fact; his colors run truer. For lesser gabblers, 
who have not genius, the best way to lose consciousness is 
just to let themselves go; if they endeavor to paint ar- 
tistically the muddle will be worse. To such the proverb 
of the cobbler and his last is of perennial warning. As a 
barber once sagely remarked to me, "You can't trim a 
beard well, unless you're born to it." It is possible in some 
degree to imitate Froissart and Boswell in that marvellous 
diligence to accumulate material which was common to 
them both; but, when gathered, how impossible it is to 
work up that old junk into permanent engrossing interest 
let those answer who have grappled with ancient chronicles, 
or with many biographies. So, with a circumlocution 

vii 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

which probably convicts me in advance of decisive de- 
ficiency as a narrator, I let myself go. I have no model, 
unless it be the old man sitting in the sun on a summer's 
day, bringing forth out of his memories things new and 
old — ^mostly old. 

A. T. Mahan. 



INTRODUCING MYSELF 

While extracts from the following pages were appearing 
in Harper's Magazine, I received a letter from a reader 
hoping that I would say something about myself before 
entering the navy. This had been outside my purpose, 
which was chiefly to narrate what had passed around me 
that I thought interesting; but it seems possibly fit to 
establish in a few words my antecedents by heredity and 
environment. 

I was born September 27, 1840, within the boundaries of 
the State of New York, but not upon its territory; the 
place, West Point on the Hudson River, having been ceded 
to the General Government for the purposes of the Military 
Academy, at which my father, Dennis Hart Mahan, was 
then Professor of Engineering, as well Civil as Military. 
He himself was of pure Irish blood, his father and mother, 
already married, having emigrated together from the old 
country early in the last century ; but he was also American 
by birthright, having been born in April, 1802, very soon 
after the arrival of his parents in the city of New York. 
There also he was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church, 
in the parish of St. Peter^s, the church building of which 
now stands far down town, in Barclay Street. It is not, I 
believe, the same that existed in 1802. 

Very soon afterwards, before he reached an age to re- 
member, his parents removed to Norfolk, Virginia, where 
he grew up and formed his earliest associations. As is 
usual, these colored his whole life; he was always a Vir- 

ix 



FROM SAIL TO STEA.M 

ginian in attachment and preference. In the days of crisis 
he remained firm to the Union, by conviction and affection; 
but he broke no friendships, and to the end there continued 
in him that surest positive indication of local fondness, ad- 
miration for the women of what was to him his native land. 
In beauty, in manner, and in charm, they surpassed. 
"Your mother is Northern," he once said to me, "and 
very few can approach her; but still, in the general, none 
compare for me with the Southern woman." The same 
causes, early association, gave him a very pronounced dis- 
like to England; for he could remember the War of 1812, 
and had experienced the embittered feeling which was 
probably nowhere fiercer than around the shores of the 
Chesapeake, the scene of the most wide-spread devastation 
inflicted, partly from motives of policy, partly as measures 
of retaliation. Spending afterwards three or four years of 
early manhood in France, he there imbibed a warm liking 
for the people, among whom he contracted several in- 
timacies. He there knew personally Lafayette and his 
family; receiving from them the hospitality which the 
Marquis' service in the War of Independence, and his 
then recent ovation during his tour of the United States 
in 1825, prompted him to extend to Americans. This 
communication with a man who could tell, and did tell him, 
intimate stories of intercourse with Washington doubtless 
emphasized my father's patriotic prejudices as well as his 
patriotism. When he revisited France, in 1856, he found 
many former friends still alive, and when I myself went 
there for the first time, in 1870, he asked me too to hunt 
them up; but they had all then disappeared. His fond- 
ness for the French doubtless accentuated his repugnance 
to the English, at that time still their traditional enemy. 
The combination of Irish and French prepossession could 
scarcely have resulted otherwise; and thus was evolved an 
atmosphere in which I was brought up, not only passively 



INTRODUCING MYSELF 

absorbing, but to a certain degree actively impressed with 
love for France and the Southern section of the United 
States, while learning to look askance upon England and 
abolitionists. The experiences of life, together with sub- 
sequent reading and reflection, modified and in the end 
entirely overcame these early prepossessions. 

My father was for over forty years professor at West 
Point, of which he had been a graduate. In short, the 
Academy was his life, and he there earned what I think 
I am modest in calling a distinguished reputation. The 
best proof of this perhaps is that at even so early a date in 
our national history as his graduation from the Academy, 
in 1824, he was thought an officer of such promise as to 
make it expedient to send him to France for the higher 
military education in which the coimtry of Napoleon and 
his marshals then stood pre-eminent. From 1820, when he 
entered the Academy as a pupil, to his death in 1871, he was 
detached from it only these three or four years. Yet this 
determination of his life's work proceeded from a mere 
accident, scarcely more than a boy's fancy. He had begun 
the study of medicine, under Dr. Archer, of Richmond; but 
he had a very strong wish to learn drawing. In those 
primitive days the opportunity of instruction was wanting 
where he lived; and hearing that it was taught at the 
Military Academy he set to work for an appointment, hot 
from inclination to the calling of a soldier, but as a means 
to this particular end. It is rather singular that he should 
have had no bias towards the profession of arms; for al- 
though he drifted almost from the first into the civil 
branch, as a teacher and then professor, I have never 
known a man of more strict and lofty military ideas. The 
spirit of the profession was strong in him, though he cared 
little for its pride, pomp, and circumstance. I believe 
that in this observation others who knew him well agreed 
with me. 

xi 



FROM SAIL TO STEA]\I 

The work of a teacher, however important and absorbing 
in itself, does not usually offer much of interest to readers. 
My father, by the personal contact of teacher and taught, 
knew almost every one of the distinguished generals who 
fought in the War of Secession, on either the Union or the 
Confederate side. With scarcely an exception, they had 
been his pupils; but his own life was uneventful. He 
married, in 1839, Mary Helena Okill, of New York City. 
My mother's father was English, her mother an American, 
but with a strong strain of French blood; her maiden 
name, Mary Jay, being that of a Huguenot family which 
had left France under Louis XIV. By the time of her 
birth, in 1786, a good deal of American admixture had 
doubtless qualified the original French; but I remember 
her well, and though she lived to be seventy- three, she had 
up to the last a vivacity and keen enjoyment of life, more 
French than American, reflected from quick black eyes, 
which fairly danced with animation through her interest 
in her surroundings. 

From my derivation, therefore, I am a pretty fair illus- 
tration of the mix-up of bloods which seems destined to 
bring forth some new and yet undecipherable combination 
on the North American continent. One-half Irish, one- 
fourth English, and a good deal more than "a trace" of 
French, would appear to be the showing of a quantitative 
analysis. Yet, as far as I understand my personality, I 
think to see in the result the predominance which the 
English strain has usually asserted for itself over others. 
I have none of the gregariousness of either the French or 
Irjsh; and while I have no difficulty in entering into civil 
conversation with a stranger who addresses me, I rarely 
begin, having, upon the whole, a preference for an intro- 
duction. This is not perverseness, but lack of facility; 
and I believe Froissart noted something of the same in 
the Englishmen of five hundred years ago. I have, too, 

xii 



INTRODUCING MYSELF 

an abhorrence of public speaking, and a desire to slip un- 
observed into a back seat wherever I am, which amount to 
a mania; but I am bound to admit I get both these dis- 
positions from my father, whose Irishry was undiluted by 
foreign admixture. 

In mj'' boyhood, till I was nearly ten, West Point was a 
very sequestered place. It was accessible only by steam- 
boats; and during great part of the winter months not by 
them, the Hudson being frozen over most of the season as 
far as ten to twenty miles lower down. ' The railroad was 
not running before 1848, and then it followed the east bank 
of the river. One of my early recollections is of begging 
off from school one day, long enough to go to a part of the 
post distant from our house, whence I caught my first 
sight of a train of cars on the opposite shore. Another 
recollection is of the return of a company of engineer 
soldiers from the War with Mexico. The detachment was 
drawn up for inspection where we boys could see it. One 
of the men had grown a full beard, a sight to me then as 
novel as the railroad, and I announced it at home as a 
most interesting fact. I had as yet seen only clean-shaven 
faces. Among my other recollections of childhood are, as 
superintendent of the Academy, Colonel Robert E. Lee, 
afterwards the great Confederate leader; and McClellan, 
then a junior engineer officer. 

As my boyhood advanced the abolition movement was 
gaining strength, to the great disapprobation and dismay 
of my father, with his strong Southern and Union sym- 
pathies. I remember that when Uncle Tom's Cabin came 
out, in my twelfth year, the master of the school I attended 
gave me a copy; being himself, I presume, one of the 
rising party adverse to slaN^ery. My father took it out of 
my hands, and I came to regard it much as I would a 
bottle labelled "Poison." In consequence I never read it 

in the days of its vogue, and I have to admit that since 

xiii 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

then, in mature years, I have not been able to continue it 
after beginning. The same motives, in great part, led to my 
being sent to a boarding-school in Maryland, near Hagers- 
town, which drew its pupils very largely, though not exclu- 
sively, from the South. The environment would be upon 
the whole Southern. I remained there, however, only two 
years, my father becoming dissatisfied with my progress 
in mathematics. In 1854, therefore, I matriculated as 
a freshman at Columbia College in the city of New York, 
where I remained till I went to the Naval Academy. 

My entrance into the navy was greatly against my 
father's wish. I do not remember all his arguments, but 
he told me he thought me much less fit for a military than 
for a civil profession, having watched me carefully. I 
think myself now that he was right ; for, though I have no 
cause to complain of unsuccess, I believe I should have 
done better elsewhere. While thus more than dissenting 
from my choice, he held that a child should not be per- 
emptorily thwarted in his scheme of life. Consequently, 
while he would not actively help me in the doubtful under- 
taking of obtaining an appointment, which depended then 
as now upon the representative from the congressional dis- 
trict, he gave me the means to go to Washington, and also 
two or three letters to personal friends; among them Jef- 
ferson Davis, then Secretary of War, and James Watson 
Webb, a prominent character in New York journalism 
and in politics, both state and national. 

Thus equipped, I started for Washington on the first day 
of 1856, being then three months over fifteen. As I think 
now of my age, and more than usual diffidence, and of my 
mission, to win the favor of a politician who had constit- 
uents to reward, whereas to all my family practical politics 
were as foreign as Sanskrit, I know not whether the situation 
were more comical or pathetic. On the way I foregathered 
with a Southern lad, some three years my senior, returning 

xiv 



INTRODUCING MYSELF 

home from England, where he had been at school. He 
beguiled the time by stories of his experiences, to me 
passing strange; and I remember, in crossing the Susque- 
hanna, which was then by ferry-boat, looking at the 
fields of ice fragments, I said it would be unpleasant to 
fall in. "I would sooner have a knife stuck into me,'' he 
replied. I wonder what became of him, for I never knew 
his name. Of course he entered the Confederate army; 
but what besides? 

I remember my week's stay in Washington much as I 
suppose si man overboard remembers the incidents of that 
experience. Memory is an odd helpmate; why some 
circumstances take hold and others not is "one of those 
things no fellow can find out." I saw the member of 
Congress, who I find by reference to have been Ambrose 
S. Murray, representative of the district within which 
West Point lay. He received me kindly, but with the 
reserve characteristic of most interviews where one party 
desires a favor for which he has nothing in exchange to 
offer. I think, however, that Mr. Webb, with whom and 
his family I breakfasted one day, said some good words 
for me. Jefferson Davis was a graduate of the Military 
Academy, of 1827 ; and although his term there had over- 
lapped my father's by only one year, his interest in every- 
thing pertaining to the army had maintained between them 
an acquaintance approaching intimacy. He therefore was 
very cordial to the boy before him, and took me round to 
the office of the then Secretary of the Navy, Mr. James C. 
Dobbin, of North Carolhia; just why I do not understand 
yet, as the Secretary could not influence my immediate 
object. Perhaps he felt the need of a friendly chat; for I 
remember that, after presenting me, the two sat down and 
discussed the President's Message, of which Davis expressed 
a warm approval. This being the time of the protracted 
contest over the Speakership, which ended in the election 

XV 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

of Banks, I suppose the colleagues were talking about a 
document which was then ready, and familiar to them, 
but which was not actually sent to Congress until it or- 
ganized, some weeks after this interview. Probably their 
conversation was the aftermath of a cabinet meeting. 

I returned home with fairly sanguine hopes, which on 
the journey received a douche of cold water from an old 
gentleman, a distant connection of my family, to visit 
whom I stopped a few hours in Philadelphia. He asked 
about my chance of the appointment; and being told that 
it seemed good, he rejoined, "Well, I hope you won't get 
it. I have known many naval officers, captains and lieu- 
tenants, in different parts of the world" — for his time, he 
was then nearly eighty, he had travelled extensively — " I 
have talked much with them, and know that it is a pro- 
fession with little prospect.'' Then he quoted Dr. John- 
son : " No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough 
to get himself into jail; for being in a ship is being in a 
jail with the chance of being drowned"; and further to 
overwhelm me, he clinched the saying by a comment of 
his own. " In a ship of war you run the risk of being killed 
as well as that of being drowned." The interview left me 
a perplexed but not a wiser lad. 

Late in the ensuing spring Mr. Murray wrote me that he 
would nominate me for the appointment. Just what de- 
termined him in my favor I do not certainly know ; but, 
as I remember, Mr. Davis had authorized me to say to him 
that, if the place were given me, he would use his own in- 
fluence with President Pierce to obtain for a nominee from 
his district a presidential appointment to the Military 
Academy. Mr. Murray replied that such a proposition 
was very acceptable to him, because the tendency among 
his constituents was much more to the army than to the 
navy. At that day, besides one cadet at West Point for 
each congressional district, which was in the gift of the 

xvi 



INTRODUCING MYSELF 

representative, the law permitted the President a certain 
number of annual appointments, called "At Large"; the 
object being to provide for sons of military and naval 
officers, whose lack of political influence made it difficult 
otherwise to enter the school. This presidential privilege 
has since been extended to the Naval Academy, but had 
not then. The proposed interchange in my case, therefore, 
would be practically to give an officer's son an appoint- 
ment at large in the navy. Whether this arrangement was 
actually carried out, I have never known nor inquired; 
but it has pleased me to believe, as I do, that I owed my 
entrance to the United States navy to the interposition of 
the first and only President of the Southern Confederacy, 
whose influence with Mr. Pierce is a matter of history. 

I entered the Naval Academy, as an "acting midship- 
man," September 30, 1856. 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 



RECOLLECTIONS OF NAVAL LIFE 



NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR OF SECESSION 
THE OFFICERS AND SEAMEN 

Naval officers who began their career in the fifties of 
the past century, as I did, and who survive till now, 
as very many do, have been observant, if inconspicuous, 
witnesses of one of the most rapid and revolutionary changes 
that naval science and warfare have ever undergone. It 
has been aptly said that a naval captain who fought the 
Invincible Armada would have been more at home in the 
typical war-ship of 1840, than the average captain of 1840 
would have been in the advanced types of the American 
Civil War.^ The twenty years here chosen for comparison 
cover the middle period of the century which has but re- 
cently expired. Since that time progress has gone on in 
accelerating ratio; and if the consequent changes have 
been less radical in kind, they have been more extensive in 
scope. It is interesting to observe that within the same 
two decades, in 1854, occurred the formal visit of Commo- 
dore Perry to Japan, and the negotiations of the treaty 
bringing her fairly within the movement of Western civili- 
zation; starting her upon the path which has resulted in the 
most striking illustration yet given of the powers of modern 
naval instruments, ships and weapons, diligently developed 
and elaborated during the period that has since elapsed. 

* J. R. Soley, The Blockade and the Cruisers, 1883. Scribner's, Navy 
in the Civil War. , 

3 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

When I received my appointment to the Naval School 
at Annapohs, in the early part of the year 1856, the United 
States navy was under the influence of one of those spas- 
modic awakenings which, so far as action is concerned, have 
been the chief characteristic of American statesmanship in 
the matter of naval policy up to twenty years ago. Since 
then there has been a more continuous practical recognition 
of the necessity for a sustained and consistent development 
of naval power. This wholesome change has been coinci- 
dent with, and doubtless largely due to, a change in appre- 
ciation of the importance of naval power in the realm of 
international relations, which, within the same period, has 
passed over the world at large. The United States of 
America began its career under the Constitution of 1789 
with no navy; but in 1794 the intolerable outrages of the 
Barbary pirates, and the humiliation of having to depend 
upon the armed ships of Portugal for the protection of 
American trade, aroused Congress to vote the building of a 
half-dozen frigates, with the provision, however, that the 
building should stop if an arrangement with Algiers were 
reached. Not till 1798 was the navy separated from the 
War Department. The President at that date, John Adams, 
was, through his New England origin, in profound sympathy 
with all naval questions; and, while minister to Great 
Britain, in 1785, had had continual opportunity to observe 
the beneficial effect of maritime activity and naval power 
upon that kingdom. He had also bitter experience of the 
insolence of its government towards our interests, based 
upon its conscious control of the sea. He thus came into 
office strongly biassed towards naval development. To 
the impulse given by him contributed also the outrageous 
course towards our commerce initiated by the French Di- 
rectory, after Bonaparte's astounding campaigns in Italy 
' had struck down all opposition to France save that of the 
mistress of the seas. The nation, as represented in Con- 

4 



NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR 

gress, woke up, rubbed its eyes, and built a small number 
0? vessels which did exemplary service in the subsequent 
quasi war with France. Provision was made for a further 
increase ; and it is not too much to say that this beginning, 
if maintained, might have averted the War of 1812. But 
within four years revulsion came. Adams gave place to 
Jefferson and Madison, the leaders of a party which frankly 
and avowedly rejected a navy as an element of national 
strength^ and saw in it only a menace to liberty. Save for 
the irrepressible marauding of the Barbary corsairs, and 
the impressment of our seamen by British ships-of-war, the 
remnant of Adams' ships would not improbably have been 
swept out of existence. This result was feared by naval 
officers of the day; and with what good reason is shown by 
the fact that, within six months of the declaration of the 
War in 1812, and when the party in control was determined 
that war there should be, a proposition to increase the 
navy received but lukewarm support from the adminis- 
tration, and was voted down in Congress. The govern- 
ment, awed by the overwhelming numbers of the British 
fleet, proposed to save its vessels by keeping them at 
home; just as a few years before it had undertaken to save 
its commerce by forbidding its merchant-ships to go to sea. 
Such policy with regard to a military service means to it 
not sleep, but death. The urgent remonstrances of three 
or four naval captains obtained a change of plan; and at 
the end of the year the President admitted that, for the 
very reasons advanced by them, the activity of a small 
squadron, skilfully directed, had insured the safe return 
of much the most part of our exposed merchant-shipping. 
It is not, however, such broad general results of sagacious 
management that bring conviction to nations and arouse 
them to action. Professionally, the cruise of Rodgers's 
squadron, unsuccessful in outward seeming, was a much 
more significant event, and much more productive, than 

5 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

the capture of the Guerriere by the Constitution; but it was 
this which woke up the people. The other probably would 
not have turned a vote in either House, As a military 
exploit the frigate victory was exaggerated, and not un- 
naturally; but no words can exaggerate its influence upon 
the future of the American navy. Here was something that 
men could see and understand, even though they might 
not correctly appreciate. Coinciding as the tidings did 
with the mortification of Hull's surrender at Detroit, they 
came at a moment which was truly psychological. Bowed 
down with shame at reverse where only triumph had been 
anticipated, the exultation over victory w^here disaster had 
been more naturally awaited produced a wild reaction. The 
effect was decisive. Inefficient and dilatory as was much 
of the subsequent administration of the navy, there was 
never any further question of its continuance. And yet, 
from the ship which thus played the most determining part 
in the history of her service, it has been proposed to take 
her name, and give it to another, of newer construction; 
as though with the name could go also the association. 
Could any other Victory be Nelson's Victory to Great 
Britain? Can calling a man George Washington help to 
perpetuate the services of the one Washington? The last 
much -vaunted addition to the British fleet, the Dread- 
naught, bears a family name extending back over two 
centuries, or more. She is one of a series reasonably per- 
petuated, ship after ship, as son after sire; a line of succes- 
sion honored in the traditions of the nation. So there 
were Victorys, before the one whose revered hulk still main- 
tains a hallowed association; but her individual connection 
with one event has set her apart. The name might be 
transferred, but with it the association cannot be trans- 
mitted. But not even the Victory, with all her clinging 
memories, did for the British navy what the Constitution 
did for the American. 

a 



NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR 

There was thenceforward no longer any question about 
votes for the navy. Ships of the line, frigates, and sloops, 
were ordered to be built, and the impulse thus received 
never wholly died out. Still, as with all motives which in 
origin are emotional rather than reasoned, there was lack 
of staying power. As the enthusiasm of the moment 
languished, there came languor of growth; or, more prop- 
erly, of development. Continuance became routine in 
character, tending to reproduce contentedly the old types 
consecrated by the War of 1812. There was little conscious 
recognition of national exigencies, stimulating a demand 
that the navy, in types and numbers, should be kept abreast 
of the times. In most pursuits of life American intelligence 
has been persistently apt and quick in search of improve- 
ment; but, while such characteristics have not been absent 
from the naval service, they have been confined chiefly, 
and naturally, to the men engaged in the profession, and 
have lacked the outside support which immediate felt 
needs impart to movements in business or politics. Few 
men in civil life could have given an immediate reply to the 
question. Why do we need a navy ? Besides, although the 
American people are aggressive, combative, even warlike, 
they are the reverse of military; out of sympathy with 
military tone and feeling. Consequently, the appearance 
of professional pride, the insistence upon the absolute 
necessity for professional training, which in the physician, 
lawyer, engineer, or other civil occupation is accepted as 
not only becoming, but conducive to uplifting the pro- 
fession as a whole, is felt in the military man to be the 
obtrusion of an alien temperament, easily stigmatized as 
the arrogance of professional conceit and exclusiveness. 
The wise traditional jealousy of any invasion of the civil 
power by the military has no doubt played some part in 
this; but a healthy vigilance is one thing, and morbid dis- 
trust another. Morbid distrust and unreasoned preposses- 

7 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

sion were responsible for the feebleness of the navy m 1812, 
and these feelings long survived. An adverse atmosphere 
was created, with results unfortunate to the nation, so far 
as the navy was important to national welfare or national 
progress. 

Indeed, between the day of my entrance into the service, 
fifty years ago, and the present, nowhere is change more 
notable than in the matter of atmosphere; of the national 
attitude towards the navy and comprehension of its office. 
Then it was accepted without much question as part of the 
necessary lumber that every adequately organized mari- 
time state carried, along with the rest of a national es- 
tablishment. Of what use it was, or might be, few cared 
much to inquire. There was not sufficient interest even 
to dispute the necessity of its existence ; although, it is true, 
as late as 1875 an old-time Jeffersonian Democrat repeated 
to me with conviction the master^s dictum, that the navy 
was a useless appendage; a statement which its work in the 
War of Secession, as well on the Confederate as on the 
Union side, might seem to have refuted sufficiently and 
with abundant illustration. To such doubters, before the 
war, there was always ready the routine reply that a navy 
protected commerce; and American shipping, then the 
second in the world, literally whitened every sea with its 
snowy cotton sails, a distinctive mark at that time of 
American merchant shipping. In my first long voyage, in 
1859, from Philadelphia to Brazil, it was no rare occurrence 
to be becalmed in the doldrums in companj^ with two or 
three of these beautiful semi-clipper vessels, their low 
black hulls contrasting vividly with the tall pyramids of 
dazzling canvas which rose above them. They needed no 
protection then, and none foresaw that within a decade, by 
the operations of a few small steam-cruisers, they would 
be swept from the seas, never to return. Everything was 
taken for granted, and not least that war was a barbarism 

8 



NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR 

of the past. From 1815 to 1850, the lifetime of a genera- 
tion, international peace had prevailed substantially un- 
broken, despite numerous revolutionary movements in- 
ternal to the states concerned; and it had been lightly 
assumed that these conditions would thenceforth continue, 
crowned as they had been by the great sacrament of peace, 
when the nations for the first time gathered under a common 
roof the fruits of their several industries in the World's 
Exposition of 1851. The shadows of disunion were in- 
deed gathering over our own land, but for the most of us 
they carried with them no fear of war. American fight 
American? Never! Separation there might be, and with 
a common sorrow officers of both sections thought of it; 
but, brother shed the blood of brother? No! By 1859 
the Crimean War had indeed intervened to shake these 
fond convictions; but, after all, rules have exceptions, and 
in the succeeding peace the British government, consistent 
with the prepossessions derived from the propaganda of 
Cobden, yielded perfectly gratuitously the principle that 
an enemy's commerce might be freely transported imder a 
neutral flag, thereby wrenching away prematurely one of 
the prongs of Neptune's trident. Surely we were on the 
road to universal peace. 

San Francisco before and after its recent earthquake — 
at this moment of writing ten days ago — scarcely pre- 
sented a greater contrast of experience than that my day 
has known; and the political condition and balance of the 
world now is as different from that of the period of which 
I have been writing as the new city will be from the old 
one it will replace at the Golden Gate. Of this universal 
change and displacement the most significant factor — at 
least in our Western civilization — has been the establish- 
ment of the German Empire, with its ensuing commercial, 
maritime, and naval development. To it certainly we 
owe the military impulse which has been transmitted 

9 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

everywhere to the forces of sea and land — an impulse for 
which, in my judgment, too great gratitude cannot be 
felt. It has braced and organized Western civilization 
for an ordeal as yet dimly perceived. But between 1850 
and 1860 long desuetude of war, and confident reliance 
upon the commercial progress which freedom of trade had 
brought in its train, especially to Great Britain, had in- 
duced the prevalent feeling that to-morrow would be as 
to-day, and much more abundant. This was too conso- 
nant to national temperament not to pervade America 
also; and it was promoted by a distance from Europe 
and her complications much greater than now exists, and 
by the consistent determination not to be implicated in 
her concerns. All these factors went to constitute the 
atmosphere of indifference to military affairs in general; 
and particularly to those external interests of which a 
navy is the outward and visible sign and champion. 

I do not think there is error or exaggeration in this 
picture of the "environment'' of the navy in popular ap- 
preciation at the time I entered. Under such conditions, 
which had obtained substantially since soon after the 
War of 1812, and which long disastrously affected even 
Great Britain, with all her proud naval traditions and 
maritime and colonial interests, a military service cannot 
thrive. Indifference and neglect tell on most individuals, 
and on all professions. The saving clauses were the high 
sense of duty and of professional integrity, which from first 
to last I have never known wanting in the service ; while the 
beauty of the ships themselves, quick as a docile and in- 
telligent animal to respond to the master's call, inspired 
affection and intensified professional enthusiasm. The 
exercises of sails and spars, under the varying exigencies 
of service, bewildering as they may have seemed to the 
uninitiated, to the appreciative possessed fascination, and 
were their own sufficient reward for the care lavished upon 

10 



NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR 

them. In their mute yet exact response was some com- 
pensation for external neglect; they were, so to say, the 
testimony of a good conscience; the assurance of profes- 
sional merit, and of work well done, if scantily recognized. 
Poor and beloved sails and spars — la joie de la manceuvre, 
to use the sympathetic phrase of a French officer of that 
day — ^gone ye are with that past of which I have been 
speaking, and of which ye were a goodly symbol ; but like 
other symptoms of the times, had we listened aright, we 
should have heard the stern rebuke: Up and depart 
hence; this is not the place of your rest. 

The result of all this had been a body of officers, and of 
men-of-war seamen, strong in professional sentiment, and 
admirably qualified in the main for the duties of a calling 
which in many of its leading characteristics was rapidly 
becoming obsolete. There was the spirit of youth, but the 
body of age. As a class, officers and men were well up in 
the use of such instruments as the country gave them; but 
the profession did not wield the corporate influence neces- 
sary to extort better instruments, and impotence to remedy 
produced acquiescence in, perhaps, more properly, submis- 
sion to, an arrest of progress, the evils of which were clearly 
seen. Yet the salt was still there, nor had it lost its savor. 
The military professions are discouraged, even enjoined, 
against that combined independent action for the remedy 
of grievances which is the safeguard of civil liberty, but 
tends to sap the unquestioning obedience essential to unity 
of action under a single will — at once the virtue and the 
menace of a standing army. Naval officers had neither 
the privilege nor the habits which would promote united 
effort for betterment; but when individuals among them 
are found, like Farragut, Dupont, Porter, Dahlgren — to 
mention only a few names that became conspicuous in 
the War of Secession — there wdll be found also in civil and 
political life men who will become the channels through 

11 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

which the needs of the service will receive expression and 
ultimately obtain relief. The process is overslow for per- 
fect adequacy, but it exists. It may be asked, Was not 
the Navy Department constituted for this special purpose ? 
Possibly; but experience has shown that sometimes it is 
effective, and sometimes it is not. There is in it no pro- 
vision for a continuous policy. No administrative period 
of our naval history since 1812 has been more disastrously 
stagnant and inefficient than that which followed closely 
the War of Secession, with its extraordinary, and in the 
main well-directed, administrative energy. The deeds of 
Farragut, his compeers, and their followers, after exciting a 
moment's enthusiasm, were powerless to sustain popular 
interest. Reaction ruled, as after the War of 1812. 

To whomsoever due, in the decade immediately preced- 
ing the War of Secession there were two notable attempts 
at regeneration which had a profound influence upon the 
fortunes of that contest. Of these, one affected the per- 
sonnel of the navy, the other the material. It had for 
some time been recognized within the service that, owing 
partly to easy-going toleration of offenders, partly to the 
absence of authorized methods for dealing with the dis- 
abled, or the merely incompetent, partly also, doubtless, to 
the effect of general professional stagnation upon those 
naturally inclined to worthlessness, there had accumulated 
a very considerable percentage of officers who were useless ; 
or, worse, unreliable. In measure, this was also due to 
habits of drinking, much more common in all classes of 
men then than now. Even within the ten years with 
which I am dealing, an officer not much my senior re- 
marked to me on the great improvement in this respect in 
his own experience; and my contemporaries will bear me 
out in saying that since then the advance has been so sus- 
tained that the evil now is practically non-existent. But 
then the compassionate expression, "A first-rate officer 

12 



NAVAL C€)N1ITI0NS BEFORE THE WAR 

when he is not drinking," was ominously frequent; and in 
the generation before too little attention had been paid to 
the equally significant remark, that with a fool you know 
what to count on, but with one who drank you never 
knew. 

But drink was far from the only cause. There were 
regular examinations, after six years of service, for promo- 
tion from the warrant of midshipman to a lieutenant's com- 
mission; but, that successfully passed, there was no further 
review of an officer's qualifications, unless misconduct 
brought him before a court-martial. Nor was there any 
provision for removing the physically incompetent. Before 
I entered the navy I knew one such, who had been bed- 
ridden for nearly ten years. He had been a midshipman 
with Farragut under Porter in the old Essex, when captured 
by the Phoebe and Cherub. A gallant boy, specially named 
in the despatch, he had such aptitude that at sixteen, as 
he told me himself, he wore an epaulette on the left shoulder 
— the uniform of a lieutenant at that time; and a con- 
temporary assured me that in handling a ship he was the 
smartest officer of the deck he had ever known. But in 
early middle life disease overtook him, and, though flat 
on his back, he had been borne on the active list because 
there was nothing else to do with him. In that plight he 
was even promoted. There was another who, as a mid- 
shipman, had lost a foot in the War of 1812, but had been 
carried on from grade to grade for forty years, until at the 
time I speak of he was a captain, then the highest rank in 
the navy. Possibly, probably, he never saw water bluer 
than that of the lakes, where he was wounded. The un- 
deserving were not treated with quite the same indulgence. 
Those familiar with the Navy Register of those days will 
recall some half-dozen old die-hards, who figured from 
year to year at the head of the lieutenant's list; continuous- 
ly "overslaughed," never promoted, but never dismissed* 

13 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

To deal in the same manner with such men as the two 
veterans first mentioned would have been insulting; the 
distinction of promotion had to be conceded. 

But there were those also who, despite habits or ineffi- 
ciency, slipped through even formal examination; com- 
manders whose ships were run by their subordinates, 
lieutenants whose watch on deck kept their captains from 
sleeping, midshipmen whose unfitness made their retention 
unpardonable ; for at their age to re-begin life was no hard- 
ship, much less injustice. Of one such the story ran that 
his captain, giving him the letter required by regulation, 
wrote, " Mr. So and So is a very excellent young gentleman, 
of perfectly correct habits, but nothing will make an 
officer of him." He answered his questions, however; 
and the board considered that they could not go beyond 
that fact. They passed him in the face of the opinion of a 
superior of tried efficiency who had had his professional 
conduct under prolonged observation. I never knew this 
particular man professionally, but the general estimate of 
the service confirmed his captain's opinion. Twenty or 
thirty years later, I was myself one of a board called to 
deal with a precisely similar case. The letter of the captain 
was explicitly condemnatory and strong; but the president 
of the board, a man of exemplary rectitude, was vehement 
even in refusing to act upon it, and his opinion prevailed. 
Some years afterwards the individual came under my com- 
mand, and proved to be of so eccentric worthlessness that I 
thought him on the border-line of insanity. He afterwards 
disappeared, I do not know how. 

Talking of examinations, a comical incident came under 
my notice immediately after the War of Secession, when there 
were still employed a large number of those volunteer offi- 
cers who had honorably and usefully filled up the depleted 
ranks of the regular service — an accession of strength im- 
peratively needed. There were among them, naturally, 

14 



NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR 

inefficients as well as efficients. One had applied for 
promotion, and a board of three, among them myself, was 
assembled to examine. Several commonplace questions 
in seamanship were put to him, of which I now remember 
only that he had no conception of the difference between a 
ship moored, and one lying at single anchor — a subject as 
pertinent to-day as a hundred years ago. After failing to 
explain this, he expressed his wish not to go further ; where- 
upon one of the board asked why, if ignorant of these 
simple matters, he had applied for examination. His 
answer was, " I did not apply for examination, I applied for 
promotion." Even in this case, when the applicant had 
left the room, the president of the board, then a some- 
what notorious survival of the unfittest, long since de- 
parted this life, asked whether we refused to pass him. 
The third member, himself a volunteer officer, and my- 
self, said we did. "Well," he rejoined, "you know this 
man may get a chance at you some day." This prudent 
consideration, however, did not save him. 

Such tolerance towards the unfit, the reluctance to 
strike the individual in the interests of the community, 
was but a special, and not very flagrant, instance of the 
sympathy evoked for much worse offenders — murderers, 
and defrauders — in civil life. In such cases, the average 
man, except when personally affected, sides unreasonably 
with the sufferer and against the public; witness the easily 
signed petitions for pardon which flow in. It can be under- 
stood that in a public employment, civil or military, there 
will usually be reluctance to punish, and especially to take 
the bread out of the mouths of a man and his family by 
ejection. Usually only immediate personal interest in 
efficiency can supply the needed hardness of heart. Speak- 
ing after a very extensive and varied inside experience of 
courts-martial, I can say most positively that their ten- 
dency is not towards the excessive severity which I have 

15 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

heard charged against them by an eminent lawyer. On 
the contrary, the difficulty is to keep the members up to 
the mark against their natural and professional sympathies. 
Their superiors in the civil government have more often to 
rebuke undue leniency. How much more hard when, instead 
of an evil-doer, one had only to deal with a good-tempered, 
kindly ignoramus, or one perhaps who drew near the border- 
line of slipshod adequacy ; and especially when to do so was 
to initiate action, apparently invidious, and probably use- 
less, as in cases I have cited. It was easier for a captain or 
first lieutenant to nurse such a one along through a cruise, 
and then dismiss him to his home, thanking God, like 
Dogberry, that you are rid of a fool, and trusting you may 
see him no more. But this confidence may be misplaced; 
even his ghost may return to plague you, or your conscience. 
Basil Hall tells an interesting story in point. When him- 
self about to pass for lieutenant, in 1808, while in an ante- 
room awaiting his summons, a candidate !came out flushed 
and perturbed. Hall was called in, and one of the examin- 
ing captains said to him, " Mr. , who has just gone out, 

could not answer a question which we will put to you." 
He naturally looked for a stunner, and was surprised at the 
extremely commonplace problem proposed to him. From 
the general incident he presumed his predecessor had been 
rejected, but when the list was published saw his name 
among the passed. Some years later he met one of the 
examiners, who in the conversation recalled to him the 
circumstances. ^^We hesitated," he said, '' whether to let 
him go through : but we did, and I voted for him. A few 
weeks later I saw him gazetted second lieutenant of a sloop- 
of-war, and a twinge of compunction seized me. Not 
long afterwards I read also the loss of that ship, with all 
on board. I never have known how it happened, but I 
cannot rid myself of an uneasy feeling that it may have 
been in that young man's watch." He added, "Mr. Hall, 

16 



NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR 

if ever you are employed as I then was, do not take your 
duties as lightly as I did.'' 

Sometimes retribution does not assume this ghastly 
form, but shows the humorous side of her countenance; 
for she has two faces, like the famous ship that was painted 
a different color on either side and always tacked at night, 
that the enemy might imagine two ships off their coast. 
I recall — many of us recall — a well-known character in the 
service, "Bobby," who was a synonyme for inefficiency. 
He is long since in his grave, where reminiscence cannot 
disturb him; and the Bobby can reveal him only to those 
who knew him as well and better than I, and not to an 
unsympathetic public. Well, Bobby after much indulgence 
had been retired from active service by that convulsive 
effort at re-establishment known as the Retiring Board of 
1854-55, to which I am coming if ever I see daylight 
through this thicket of recollections that seems to close 
round me as I proceed, instead of getting clearer. The 
action of that board was afterwards extensively reviewed, 
and among the data brought before the reviewers was a 
letter from a commander, who presumably should have 
known better, warmly endorsing Bobby. In consequence 
of this, and perhaps other circumstances, Bobby was re- 
stored to an admiring service; but the Department, prob- 
ably through some officer who appreciated the situation, 
sent him to his advocate as first lieutenant — that is, as 
general manager and right-hand man. The joke was 
somewhat grim, and grimly resented. It fell to me a 
little later to see the commander on a matter of duty. 
He received me in his cabin, his feet swathed on a chair, 
his hands gnarled and knotted with gout or rheumatism, 
from which he was a great sufferer. Business despatched, 
we drifted into talk, and got on the subject of Bobby. 
His face became distorted. "I suppose the Department 
thinks it has done a very funny thing in sending me him 

17 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

as first lieutenant; but I tell you, Mr. Mahan, every word 
I wrote was perfectly true. There is nothing about a ship 
from her hold to her trucks that Bobby don't know; but — " 
here fury took possession of him, and he vociferated — ^' put 

him on deck, handling men, he is the d dest fool that 

ever man laid eyes on." How far his sense of injury 
biassed his judgments as to the acquirements of his pro- 
tege, I cannot say; but a cruise or two before I had hap- 
pened to hear from eye-witnesses of Bobby's appearance 
in public after his restoration as first lieutenant in charge 
of the deck. On the occasion in question he was to exercise 
the whole crew at some particular manoeuvre. Taking his 
stand on the hawse-block, he drew from his pocket a small 
note-book, cast upon it his eye and announced — doubt- 
less through the trumpet — ''Man the fore-royal braces!" 
A pause, and further reference. "Man the main-royal 
braces!" Again a pause: "Man the mizzen-royal braces 
— ^Man all the royal braces." It is quite true, however, 
that there may be plenty of knowledge with lack of power 
to apply it professionally — a fact observable in all callings, 
but one which examination alone will not elicit. I knew 
such a one who said of himself, " Before I take the trumpet 
I know what ought to be said and done, but with the 
trumpet in my hand everything goes away from me." 
This was doubtless partly stage-fright ; but stage-fright does 
not last where there is real aptitude. This man, of very 
marked general ability, esteemed and liked by all, finally 
left the navy; and probably wisely. On the other hand, 
I remember a very excellent seaman — and officer — telling 
me that the poorest officer he had ever known tacked 
ship the best. So men differ. 

Thus it happened, through the operation of a variety of 
causes, that by the early fifties there had accumulated on 
the lists of the navy, in every grade, a number of men who 
had been tried in the balance of professional judgment and 

18 



NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR 

found distinctly wanting. Not only was the public — the 
nation — ^being wTonged by the continuance in positions of 
responsibility of men who could not meet an emergency, 
or even discharge common duties, but there was the further 
harm that they were occupying places which, if vacated, 
could be at once filled by capable men waiting behind 
them. Fortunately, this had come to constitute a body of 
individual grievance among the deserving, which coun- 
terbalanced the natural sympathy with the individual 
incompetent. The remedy adopted was drastic enough, al- 
though in fact only an application of the principle of selec- 
tion in a very guarded form. Unhappily, previous neglect 
to apply selection through a long series of years had now 
occasioned conditions in which it had to" be used on a huge 
scale, and in the most invidious manner — the selecting out 
of the unfit. It was therefore easy for cavillers to liken 
this process to a trial at law, in which unfavorable decision 
was a condemnation without the accused being heard; 
and, of course, once having received this coloring, the im- 
pression could not be removed, nor the method reconciled 
to a public having Anglo-Saxon traditions concerning the 
administration of justice. A board of fifteen was con- 
stituted — five captains, five commanders, and five lieu- 
tenants. These were then the only grades of commissioned 
officers, and representation from them all insured, as far 
as could be, an adequate acquaintance with the entire 
personnel of the nav}^ The board sat in secret, reaching 
its own conclusions by its own methods; deciding who were, 
and who were not, fit to be carried longer on the active list. 
Rejections were of three kinds : those wholly removed, and 
those retired on two different grades of pay, called "Re- 
tired," and "Furloughed.' The report was accepted by 
the government and became operative. 

This occurred a year or two before I entered the Naval 
School ; and, as I was already expecting to do so, I read with 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

an interest I well recall the lists of person unfavorably 
affected. Of course, neither then nor afterwards had I 
knowledge to form an independent opinion upon the 
merits of the cases ; but as far as I could gather in the im- 
mediately succeeding years, from different officers, the 
general verdict was that in very few instances had injustice 
been done. AVhere I had the opportunity of verifying the 
mistakes cited to me, I found instead reason rather to 
corroborate than to impugn the action of the board; but, 
of course, in so large a review as it had to undertake, even 
a jury of fifteen experts can scarcely be expected never to 
err. In the navy it was a first, and doubtless somewhat 
crude, attempt to apply the method of selection which 
every business man or corporation uses in choosing em- 
ployes; an arbitrary conclusion, based upon personal 
knowledge and observation, or upon adequate information. 
But in private affairs such decisions are not regarded as 
legal judgment, nor rejection as condemnation; and there 
is no appeal. The private interest of the employer is war- 
rant that he will do the best he can for his business. This 
presumption does not lie in the case of public affairs, al- 
though after the most searching criticism the action of the 
board of fifteen might probably be quoted to prove that 
selection for promotion could safely be trusted at all times 
to similar means. I mean, that such a body would never 
recommend an unfit man for promotion, and in three cases 
out of five would choose very near the best man. But 
no such system can work unless a government have the 
courage of its findings; for private and public opinion will 
inevitably constitute itself a court of appeal. In Great 
Britain, where the principle of selection has never been 
abandoned, in the application the Admiralty is none the 
less constrained — browbeaten, I fancy, would hardly be 
too strong a word — by opinion outside. P. has been pro- 
moted, say the service journals; but why was A. passed over, 

20 



NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR 

or F., or K.? Choice is difficult, indeed, in peace times; 
but years sap efficiency, and for the good of the nation 
it is imperative to get men along while in the vigor of life, 
which will never be effected by the slow routine in which 
each second stands heir to the first. P. possibly may not 
be better than A. or K., but the nation will profit more, 
and in a matter vital to it, than if P., whose equality may 
be conceded, has to wait for the whole alphabet to die out 
of his way. The injustice, if so it be, to the individual 
must not be allowed to impede the essential prosperity of 
the community. 

In 1854-55, the results of a contrary ystem had reached 
proportions at once disheartening and comical. It then 
required fourteen years after entrance to reach a lieuten- 
ant's commission, the lowest of all. That is, coming in as 
a midshipman at fifteen, not till twenty-nine, after ten to 
twelve years probably on a sea-going vessel, was a man 
found fit, by official position, to take charge of a ship at 
sea, or to command a division of guns. True, the famous 
Billy Culmer, of the British navy, under a system of 
selection found himself a midshipman still at fifty-six, and 
then declined a commission on the ground that he preferred 
to continue senior midshipman rather than be the junior 
lieutenant/ but the injustice, if so it were, to Billy, and to 
many others, had put the ships into the hands of captains 

^ This statement when written rested on my childhood's memory 
only. A few months later there came into my hands a volume of the 
pubhcations of the British Navy Records Society, containing the 
Recollections of Commander James Anthony Gardner, 1775-1814. 
Gardner was at one time shipmates with Culmer, who it appears even- 
tually received a commission. By Gardner's reckoning he would have 
been far along in the forties in 1790. The following is the description 
of him. "Billy was about five feet eight or nine, and stooped; hard 
features, marked with the small-pox; blind in an eye, and a wen nearly 
the size of an egg under his cheek-bone. His dress on a Sunday was a 
mate's uniform coat, with brown velvet waistcoat and breeches; boots 
with black tops; a gold-laced hat, and a large hanger by his side like 

21 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

in the prime of life. Of the historic admirals of that navy, 
few had failed to reach a captaincy in their twenties. Per 
contra, I was told the following anecdote by .an officer of 
our service whose name was — and is, for he still lives — a 
synonyme for personal activity and professional seaman- 
ship, but who waited his fourteen years for a lieutenancy. 
On one occasion the ship in which he returned to Norfolk 
from a three-years' cruise was ordered from there to Ports- 
mouth, New Hampshire, to go out of commission. For some 
cause almost all the lieutenants had been detached, the 
cruise being thought ended. It became necessary, there- 
fore, to intrust the charge of the deck to him and other 
"passed" midshipmen, and great was the shaking of heads 
among old stagers over the danger that ship was to run. 
If this were exceptional, it would not be worth quoting, but 
it was not. A similar routine in the British navy, in a dry- 
rot period of a hundred years before, had induced a like 
head-wagging and exchange of views when one of its great- 
est admirals, Hawke, was first given charge of a squadron ; 
being then already a man of mark, and four years older 
than Nelson at the Nile. But he was younger than the 
rule, and so distrusted. 

The vacancies made by the wholesale action of 1854 
remedied this for a while. The lieutenants who owed their 
rank to it became such after seven or eight years, or at 
twenty-three or four; and this meant really passing out of 
pupilage into manhood. The change being effected im- 
mediately, anticipated the reaction in public opinion and 
in Congress, which rejected the findings of the board and 
compelled a review of the whole procedure. Many res- 
torations were made ; and, as these swelled the lists beyond 
the number then authorized by law, there was established 

the sword of Jolm-a-Gaunt. He was proud of being the oldest mid- 
shipman in the nav3% and looked upon young captains and lieutenants 
^\^th contempt." 

22 



NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR 

a reduced pay for those whose recent promotion made them 
in excess. For them was adopted, in naval colloquialism, 
the inelegant but suggestive term "jackass" lieutenants. 
It should be explained to the outsider, perhaps even many 
professional readers now may not know, that the word was 
formerly used for a class of so-called frigates which inter- 
vened between the frigate-class proper and the sloop-of- 
war proper, and like all hybrids, such as the armored 
cruiser, shared more in the defects than in the virtues of 
either. It was therefore not a new coinage, and its im- 
complimentary suggestion applied rather to the grudging 
legislation than to the unlucky victims. Of course, pro- 
motion was stopped till this block was worked off; but the 
immediate gain was retained. Before the trouble came 
on afresh the War of Secession, causing a large number 
of Southerners to leave the service, introduced a very dif- 
ferent problem; — namely, how to find officers enough to meet 
the expansion of the navy caused by the vast demands of 
the contest. The men of my time became lieutenants be- 
tween twenty and twenty- three. My own commission 
was dated a month before my twenty-first birthday, and 
with what good further prospects, even under the strict 
rule of seniority promotion, is evident, for before I was 
twenty -five I was made lieutenant- commander, corre- 
sponding to major in the army. Those were cheerful days 
in this respect for the men who struck the crest of the wave; 
but already the symptoms of inevitable reaction to old 
conditions of stagnancy were observable to those careful 
to heed. 

It would be difficult to exaggerate the benefit of this 
measure to the nation, through the service, despite the 
subsequent reactionary legislation. By a single act a 
large number of officers were advanced from the most 
subordinate and irresponsible positions to those which 
called all their faculties into play. "Responsibility," said 

23 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

one of the most experienced admirals the world has known, 
"is the test of a man's courage^'; and where the native 
fitness exists nothing so educates for responsibility as the 
having it. The responsibility of the lieutenant of the 
watch differs little from that of the captain in degree, and 
less in kind. To early bearing of responsibility Farragut 
attributed in great part his fearlessness in it, which was 
well known to the service before his hour of strain. It 
was much that the government found ready for the ex- 
treme demands of the war a number of officers, who, in- 
stead of supervising the washing of lower decks and stowing 
of holds during their best years, had been put betimes in 
charge of the ship. From there to the captain's berth was 
but a small step. "Passed midshipman," says one of 
Cooper's characters, "is a good grade to reach, but a bad 
one to stop in." From a fate Uttle better than this a large 
and promising number of young officers were thus rescued 
for the commands and responsibilities of the War of 
Secession. 



II 

NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR OF SECESSION 

THE VESSELS 

Less far-reaching, because men are greater than ships, 
but still of immense timeliness as a preparative to the war, 
was the reconstitution of the material of the navy, prac- 
tically coincident with the regeneration of the personnel. 
The causes which led to this are before my time, and be- 
yond my contemporary knowledge. They therefore form 
no part of my theme; but the result, which is more im- 
portant than the process, was strictly contemporary with 
me. It marked a definite parting with sails as the motive 
reliance of a ship-of-war, but at the same time was charac- 
terized by an extreme conservatism, which then was 
probably judicious, and certainly represented the naval 
opinion of the day. It must be remembered that the 
Atlantic was first crossed under steam in 1837, a feat shortly 
before thought impossible on account of coal consumption, 
and that the screw-propeller was not generally adopted till 
several years afterwards. In 1855 the transatlantic liners 
were still paddlers; but the paddle-wheel shaft was far 
above the water, and so, in necessary consequence, was 
much of the machinery which transmitted power from the 
boilers to the wheel. All battle experience avouched the 
probability of disabhng injury under such exposure; not 
more certain, but probably more fatal, than that to spars 
and sails of sailing-ships. Despite this drawback, paddle 

25 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

wheel men-of-war were being built between 1840 and 1850. 
Our own navy had of these two large and powerful vessels, 
sisters, the Missouri and the Mississippi. Singularly 
enough, both met the same end, by fire; the Missouri being 
burned in the Bay of Gibraltar in 1843, the Mississippi in 
the river whence she took her name, in the course of Far- 
ragut's passage of the batteries at Port Hudson in 1863. 
This engagement marked the end of the admiral's achieve- 
ments in the river, throughout which, beginning with the 
passage of the forts and the capture of New Orleans, the 
Mississippi had done good work. At the time of her 
destruction, the present Admiral Dewey was her first 
lieutenant. Besides these two we had the Susquehanna^ 
"paddle-wheel steam-frigate," which also served manfully 
through the war, and was in commission after it. It was 
she that carried General Sherman on his mission to Mexico 
in 1866. As usual, the principal European navies had 
built many more of these vessels; that is, had adopted im- 
provements more readily than we did. During my first 
cruise after graduation, on the coast of Brazil, 1859-61, 
the British squadron there was composed chiefly of pad- 
dlers; the flag-ship Leopard being one. As I remember, there 
was only one screw-steamer, the sloop-of-war Curagao. 

By that time, however, the paddlers were only survivals; 
but it may be noted, in passing, with reference to the cry 
of obsolescence so readily raised in our day, that these 
survivals did yeoman service in the War of Secession. It 
is possible to be too quick in discarding, as well as too 
slow in adopting. By 1850 the screw had made good its 
position; and the difficulty which had impeded the prog- 
ress of steam in men-of-war disappeared when it became 
possible to place all machinery below water. There were, 
however, many improvements still to come, before it could 
be frankly and fully accepted as the sole motive power. 
It is not well to let go with one hand till sure of your grip 

26 



'^tS NUT Hax. MASS. 

NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR 

with the other. So in the early days of electric lighting 
prudent steamship companies kept their oil-lamps trimmed 
and filled in the brackets alongside of the electric globes. 
Apart from the problem experienced by the average man — 
and governments are almost always averages — in adjust- 
ing his action to novel conditions, the science of steam- 
enginery was still very backward. Notably, the expendi- 
ture of coal was excessive; to produce a given result in 
miles travelled, or speed attained, much more had to be 
burned than now, a condition to which contributed also the 
lack of rigidity in the wooden hulls, which still held their 
ground. Sails were very expensive articles, as I heard said 
by an accomplished officer of the olden days ; but they were 
less costly than coal. Steam therefore was accepted at 
the first only as an accessory, for emergencies. It was too 
evident for question that in battle a vessel independent of 
the wind would have an unqualified advantage over one 
dependent; though an early acquaintance of mine, a sail- 
maker in the navy, a man of unusual intelligence and tried 
courage, used to maintain that steam would never prevail. 
Small steamers, he contended, would accompany sailing 
fleets, to tow vessels becalmed, or disabled in battle; a 
most entertaining instance of professional prepossession. 
What would be his reflections, had he survived till this 
year of grace, to see only six sail-makers on the active hst 
of the navy, the last one appointed in 1888, and not one 
of them afloat. Likewise, in breasting the continuous 
head-winds which mark some ocean districts, or traversing 
the calms of others, there would be gain; but for the most 
part sailing, it was thought, was sufficiently expeditious, 
decidedly cheaper, and more generally reliable ; for steamers 
"broke down." Admiral Baudin, a French veteran of the 
Napoleonic period, was very sarcastic over the imcertain- 
ties of action of the steamers accompanying his sailing 
frigates, when he attacked Fort San Juan de UUoa, off 

27 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

Vera Cruz in 1839; and since writing these words I have 
come across the following quotation, of several years later, 
from the London Guardian, which is republishing some of 
its older news under the title "Tis Sixty Years Since." 

''Naval manoeuvres in 1846. The Squadron of Evolution 
is one of the topics of the present week (June 10, 1846). Its 
arrival in the Cove of Cork, after a cruise which has tested by 
every variety of weather the sailing qualities of the vessels, 
has furnished the world with a few particulars of its doings, 
and with some materials for speculating on the problems it 
was sent out to solve. The result, as far as it goes, is certainly 
unfavorable to the exclusive prevalence of steam agency in 
naval warfare. Sailing ships, it is seen, can do things which 
steamers, as at present constructed, cannot accomplish. 
They can keep the sea when steamers cannot. But the screw- 
steamer, which is reported 'to have astonished everybody,' 
is certainly an exception. Perhaps by this contrivance the 
rapidity and convenience of steam locomotion may be com- 
bined with the power and stability of our huge sailing bat- 
teries." 

Under convictions thus slowly recasting, the first big 
steam ships-of-war carried merely "auxihary" engines; 
were in fact sailing vessels, of the types in use for over a 
century, into which machinery was introduced to meet 
occasional emergencies. In some cases, probably in many, 
ships already built as sailers were lengthened and engined. 
As late as 1868 we were station-mates with one such, the 
Rodney, of 90 guns, then the flag-ship of the British China 
squadron; and we had already met another, the Princess 
Royal, at the Cape of Good Hope, homeward bound. She, 
however, had been built as a steamer. She was a singularly 
handsome vessel, of her majestic type; and, as she lay close 
by us, I remember commenting on her appearance to one 
of my messmates, poor Stewart, who afterwards went 

28 



NAVAL COxNDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR 

down in the Oneida. "Yes," he replied, "she possesses 
several elements of the sublime." They were certainly 
imposing creations, with their double and treble tiers of 
guns, thrusting their black muzzles through the successive 
ports which, to the number of fifteen to twenty, broke 
through the two broad white bands that from bow to stern 
traversed the blackness of their hulls; above which rose 
spars as tall and broad as ever graced the days of Nelson. 
To make the illusion of the past as complete as possible, 
and the dissemblance from the sailing ship as slight, the 
smoke-stack — or funnel — was telescopic, permitting it to 
be lowered almost out of sight. For those who can recall 
these predecessors of the modern battle-ships, the latter can 
make slight claim to beauty or impressiveness; yet, despite 
the ugliness of their angular broken sky-line, they have a 
gracefulness all their own, when moving slowly in still 
water. I remember a dozen years ago watching the 
French Mediterranean fleet of six or eight battle -ships 
leaving the harbor of Villefranche, near Nice. There was 
some manoeuvring to get their several stations, during 
which, here and there, a vessel lying quiet waiting her 
opportunity would glide forward with a dozen slow turns 
of the screws, not agitating the water beyond a light ripple 
at the bows. The bay at the moment was quiet as a mill- 
pond, and it needed little imagination to prompt recogni- 
tion of the identity of dignified movement with that cf a 
swan making its leisurely way by means equally unseen ; no 
turbulent display of energy, yet suggestive of mysterious 
power. 

Before the War of Secession, and indeed for twenty years 
after it, the United States never inclined to the maintenance 
of squadrons, properly so-called. It is true, a dozen fine 
ships-of-the-line were built during the sail period, but they 
never sailed together; and the essence of the battle-ship, 
in all eras, is combined action. Our squadrons, till long 

3 29 



FROM SAIL TO STEAiM 

after I entered the navy, were simply aggregations of 
vessels, no two of which were necessarily of the same size 
or class. WHien a ship-of-the-line went to sea — which 
never happened in my time — she went without mates, a 
palpable paradox; a ship-of-the-line, which to no line be- 
longed. Ours was a navy of single, isolated cruisers; and 
under that condition we had received a correct tradition 
that, whatever the nominal class of an American ship-of- 
war, she should be somewhat stronger than the corre- 
sponding vessels built by other nations. Each cruiser, 
therefore, would bring superior force to any field of battle 
at all possible to her. This was a perfectly just military 
conception, to which in great measure we owed our suc- 
cesses of 1812. The same rule does not apply to fleets, 
which to achieve the like superiority rely upon united ac- 
tion, and upon tactical facility obtained by the homo- 
geneous qualities of the several ships, enabling them to 
combine greater numbers upon a part of the enemy. 
Therefore Great Britain, which so long ruled the world by 
fleets, attached less importance to size in the particular 
vessel. Class for class, her ships were weaker than those of 
her enemies, but in fleet action they usually won. At the 
period of which I am writing, the screw-propeller, having 
fairly established its position, prompted a reconstruction 
of the navy, with no change of the principles just men- 
tioned. The cruiser idea dictated the classes of vessels 
ordered, and the idea of relative size prescribed their 
dimensions. There were to be six steam -frigates of the 
largest class, six steam-sloops, and six smaller vessels, a 
precise title for which I do not know. I myself have usually 
called them by the French name corvette, which has a 
recognized place in English marine phraseology, and means 
a sloop-of-war of the smaller class. A transfer of terms 
accompanying a change of system is apt to be marked by 
anomalies. 

30 



NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR 

These eighteen vessels were the nucleus of the fighting 
force with which the government met the war of 1861. 
In the frigates and sloops steam was purely auxiliary; they 
had every spar and sail of the sailing ships to which they 
corresponded. Four of the larger sloops — the Hartford, 
Richmond, Brooklyn, and Pensacola — constituted the back- 
bone of Farragut's fleet throughout his operations in the 
Mississippi. The Lancaster, one of the finest of these five 
sisters, was already in the Pacific, and there remained 
throughout the contest; while the San Jacinto, being of dif- 
ferent type and size, was employed rather as a cruiser than 
for the important operations of war. It was she that 
arrested the Confederate commissioners, Slidell and Mason, 
on board the British mail-steamer Trent, in 1861. The 
corvettes for the most part were also employed as cruisers, 
being at once less effective in battery, for river work, and 
swifter. They alone of the vessels built in the fifties were 
engined for speed, as speed went in those days; but their 
sail power also was ample, though somewhat reduced. 
One of them, the Iroquois, accompanied Farragut to New 
Orleans, as did a sister ship to her, the Oneida, which was 
laid down in 1861, after many Southern Senators and Rep- 
resentatives had left their seats in Congress and the seces- 
sion movement became ominous of war; when it began to 
be admitted that perhaps, after all, for sufficient cause, 
brothers might shed the blood of brothers. 

The steam-frigates were of too deep draught to be of 
much use in the shoal waters, to which the nature of the 
hostilities and the character of the Southern coast con- 
fined naval operations. Being extremely expensive in 
upkeep, with enormous crews, and not having speed under 
steam to make them effective chasers, they were of little 
avail against an enemy who had not, and could not have, 
any ships at sea heavy enough to compete with them. 
The Wabash of this class bore the flag of Admiral Dupont 

31 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

at the capture of Port Royal ; and after the fight the negroes 
who had witnessed it on shore reported that when "that 
checker-sided ship," following the elliptical course pre- 
scribed to the squadron for the engagement, came abreast 
the enemy's works, the gunners, after one experience, took 
at once to cover. No barbette or merely embrasured 
battery of that day could stand up against the twenty or 
more heavy guns carried on each broadside by the steam- 
frigates, if these could get near enough. At New Orleans, 
even the less numerous pieces of the sloops beat down 
opposition so long as they remained in front of Fort St. 
Philip and close to; but when they passed on, so the first 
lieutenant of one of them told me, the enemy returned to his 
guns and hammered them severely. This showed that the 
fort was not seriously injured nor its armament decisively 
crippled, but that the personnel was completely dominated 
by the fire of many heavy guns during the critical period 
required for the smaller as well as larger vessels to pass. 
As most of the river work was of this character, the broad- 
sides of the sloops were determinative, and those of the 
frigates would have been more so, could they have been 
brought to the scene; but they could not. Much labor was 
expended in the attempt to drag the Colorado, sister ship 
to the Wabashj across the bar of the Mississippi, but 
fruitlessly. 

For the reason named, the screw -frigates built in the 
fifties had little active share in the Civil War. Were they 
then, from a national stand-point, uselessly built? Not 
unless preparation for war is to be rejected, and reliance 
placed upon extemporized means. To this resort our 
people have always been inclined to trust unduly, owing 
to a false or partial reading of history; but to it they were 
excusably compelled by the extensive demands of the 
War of Secession, which could scarcely have been an- 
ticipated. At the time these frigates were built, they were, 

32 



NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR 

by their dimensions and the character of their armaments, 
much the most formidable ships of their class afloat, or as 
yet designed. Though correctly styled frigates — having 
but one covered deck of guns — they were open to the charge, 
brought against our frigates in 1812 by the British, of 
being ships-of-the-line in disguise; and being homogeneous 
in qualities, they would, in acting together, have presented 
a line of battle extorting very serious consideration from 
any probable foreign enemy. It was for such purpose 
they were built; and it was no reproach to their designers 
that, being intended to meet a probable contingency, they 
were too big for one which very few men thought likely. 
At that moment, when the portentous evolution of naval 
material which my time has witnessed was but just be- 
ginning, they were thoroughly up-to-date, abreast and 
rather ahead of the conclusions as yet reached by con- 
temporary opinion. The best of compliments was paid 
them by the imitation of other navies; for, when the first 
one was finished, we sent her abroad on exhibition, much 
like a hen cackling over its last performance, wdth the re- 
sult that we had not long to congratulate ourselves on the 
newest and best thing. It is this place in a long series of 
development which gives them their historical interest. 

But if the frigates were unfitted to the particular 
emergency of a civil contest, scarcely to be discerned as 
imminent in 1855, the advantage of preparation for general 
service is avouched by the history of the first year of 
hostilities, even so exceptional as those of 1861 and 1862. 
Within a year of the first Bull Run, Farragut's squadron 
had fought its way from the mouth of the Mississippi to 
Vicksburg. That the extreme position was not held was 
not the fault of the ships, but of backwardness in other 
undertakings of the nation. All the naval vessels that 
subdued New Orleans had been launched and ready before 
the war, except the Oneida and the gunboats; and to at- 

33 



FROxM SAIL TO STEAiM 

tribute any determinative effect in such operations to the 
gunboats, with their one heavy gun, is to misunderstand 
the conditions. Even a year later, at the very important 
passage of Port Hudson, the fighting work was done by 
the Hartford J Richmond, Mississippi, and Monongahela; 
of which only the last named, and least powerful, was built 
after the war began. It would be difficult to overrate the 
value, material and moral, of the early successes which led 
the way to the opening of the great river, due to having the 
ships and officers ready. So the important advantages 
obtained by the capture of Port Royal in South Carolina, 
and of Hatteras Inlet in North Carolina, within the first six 
months, were the results of readiness, slight and inadequate 
as that was in reference to anything like a great naval war. 
A brief analysis of the composition of the navy at the 
opening of the War of Secession, will bring out still more 
vividly how vitally important to the issue were the addi- 
tions of the decade 1850-60. In March, 1861, when Lin- 
coln was inaugurated, the available ships -of -war at sea, 
or in the yards, numbered sixty-one. Of these thirty-four 
were sailing vessels, substantially worthless; although, as 
the commerce of the world was still chiefly carried on by 
sailing ships, they could be of some slight service against 
these attempting to pass a blockade. For the most part, 
however, they were but scarecrows, if even respected as 
such. Of the twenty-seven steamers, only six dated from 
before 1850; the remainder were being built when I en- 
tered the Naval Academy in September, 1856. Their 
construction, with all that it meant, constituted a principal 
part of the environment into which I was then brought, 
of which the recasting of the list of officers was the other 
most important and significant feature. Both were revolu- 
tionary in character, and prophetic of further changes 
quite beyond the foresight of contemporaries. From this 
point of view, the period in question has the character of 

34 



NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR 

an epoch, initiated, made possible, by the invention of the 
screw-propeller; which, in addition to the better nautical 
qualities associated with it, permitted the defence of the 
machinery by submersion, and of the sides of the ship by 
the application of armor. In this lay the germ of the race 
between the armor and the gun, involving almost directly 
the attempt to reach the parts which armor cannot protect, 
the underwater body, by means of the torpedo. The in- 
creases of weight induced by the competition of gun and 
armor led necessarily to increase of size, which in turn lent 
itself to increases of speed that have been pushed beyond 
the strictly necessary, and at all events are neither mili- 
tarily nor logically involved in the progress made. It has 
remained to me always a matter of interest and satisfaction 
that I first knew the navy, was in close personal contact 
and association with it, in this period of unconscious 
transition; and that to the fact of its being yet incomplete 
I have owed the .experience of vessels, now wholly extinct, 
of which it would be no more than truth to say that in all 
essential details they were familiar to the men of two 
hundred years ago. Nay, in their predecessors of that 
date, as transmitted to us by contemporary prints, it is 
easy to trace the development, in form, of the ships I have 
known from the mediaeval galley; and this, were the records 
equally complete, would doubtless find its rudimentary 
outlines in the triremes of the ancient world. Of this 
evolution of structure clear evidences remain also in ter- 
minology, even now current; survivals which, if the facts 
were unknown, would provoke curiosity and inquiry as to 
their origin, as physiologists seek to reconstruct the past 
of a race from scanty traces still extant. 

I have said that the character of the ships then building 
constituted a chief part of my environment in entering the 
navy. The effect was inevitable, and amounted in fact 
simply to making me a man of my period. My most sus- 

35 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

ceptible years were colored by the still lingering traditions 
of the sail period, and of the " mar ling-spike seaman;" not 
that I, always clumsy with my fingers, had any promise 
of ever distinguishing myself with the marling-spike. This 
expressive phrase, derived from its chief tool, characterized 
the whole professional equipment of the then mechanic of 
the sea, of the man who, given the necessary rope-yarns, 
and the spars shaped by a carpenter, could take a bare hull 
as she lay for the first time quietly at anchor from the 
impetus of her launch, and equip her for sea without other 
assistance; "parbuckle" on board her spars l5dng along- 
side her in the stream, fit her rigging, bend her sails, stow 
her hold, and present her all a-taunt-o to the men who were 
to sail her. The navigation of a ship thus equipped was a 
field of seamanship apart from that of the marling-spike; 
but the men who sailed her to all parts of the earth were 
expected to be able to do all the preliminary work them- 
selves, often did do it, and considered it quite as truly a 
part of their business as the handling her at sea. Of 
course, in equipping ships, as in all other business, specializa- 
tion had come in with progress; there were rope-makers, 
there were riggers who took the ropes ready-made and 
fitted them for the ship, and there were stevedores to stow 
holds, etc.; but the tradition ran that the seaman should 
be able on a pinch to do all this himself, and the tradition 
kept alive the practice, which derived from the days not 
yet wholly passed away when he might, and often did, have 
to refit his vessel in scenes far distant from any help other 
than his own, and without any resources save those which 
his ready wit could adapt from materials meant for quite 
different uses. How to make a jib-boom do the work of a 
topsail-yard, or to utilize spare spars in rigging a jury- 
rudder, were specimens of the problems then presented to 
the aspiring seaman. It was somewhere in the thirties, not 
so very long before my time, that a Captain Rous, of the 

36 



NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR 

British navy, achieved renown — I would say immortal, 
were I not afraid that most people have forgotten — by 
bringing his frigate home from Labrador to England after 
losing her rudder. It is said that he subsequently ran for 
Parliament, and when on the hustings some doubter asked 
about his political record, he answered, "I am Captain 
Rous who brought the Pique across the Atlantic without a 
rudder." Of course the reply was lustily cheered, and 
deservedly; for in such seas, with a ship dependent upon 
sails only, it was a splendid, if somewhat reckless achieve- 
ment. Cooper, in his Homeward Bound, places the ship 
dismasted on the coast of Africa. Close at hand, but on 
the beach, lies a wrecked vessel with her spars standing ; and 
there is no exaggeration in the words he puts into the 
mouth of Captain Truck, as he looked upon these re- 
sources: '^The seaman who, with sticks, and ropes, and 
blocks enough, cannot rig his ship, might as well stay 
ashore and publish an hebdomadal." 

Such was the marling-spike seaman of the days of Coo- 
per and Marryat, and such was still the able seaman, the 
" A.B.," of 1855. It was not indeed necessary, nor expect- 
ed, that most naval officers should do such things with 
their own hands; but it was justly required that they should 
know when a job of marling-spike seamanship was well or 
ill done, and be able to supervise, when necessary. Napo- 
leon is reported to have said that he could judge person- 
ally whether the shoes furnished his soldiers were well or ill 
made; but he needed not to be a shoemaker. Marryat, 
commenting on one of his characters, says that he had 
seldom known an officer who prided himself on his " prac- 
tical " knowledge who was at the same time a good navi- 
gator; and that such too often "lower the respect due to 
them by assuming the Jack Tar." Oddly enough, lunch- 
ing once with an old and distinguished British admiral, 
who had been a midshipman while Marryat still lived, he 

37 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

told me that he remembered him well; his reputation, he 
added, was that of " an excellent seaman, but not much of 
an officer," an expressive phrase, current in our own ser- 
vice, and which doubtless has its equivalent in all maritime 
languages. 

In my early naval life I came into curious accidental 
contact with just such a person as Marryat described. 
I was still at the Academy, within a year of graduation, and 
had been granted a few days' leave at Christmas. Return- 
ing by rail, there seated himself alongside me a gentleman 
who proved to be a lieutenant from the flag-ship of the 
Home Squadron, going to Washington with despatches. 
Becoming known to each other, he began to question me 
as to what new radicalisms were being fostered in Annapo- 
lis. "Are they still wasting the young men's time over 
French? I would not permit them to learn any other 
language than their own. And how about seamanship? 
What do they know about that? As far as I have observed 
they know nothing about marling-spike seamanship, strap- 
ping blocks, fitting rigging, etc. Now I can sit down along- 
side of any seaman doing a bit of work and show him how 
it ought to be done; yes, and do it myself." It was Marry- 
at's lieutenant, Phillott, ipsissimis verbis. I listened, over- 
awed by the weight of authority and experience ; and I fear 
somewhat in sympathy, for such talk was in the air, part 
of the environment of an old order slowdy and reluctantly 
giving way to a new. 

Of course I shared this; how should I not, at eighteen? 
In giving expression to it once, I drew down on my head a 
ringing buffet from my father, in which he embodied an 
anecdote of Decatur I never saw elsewhere, and fancy 
he owed to his boyhood passed near a navy-yard town — 
Portsmouth, Virginia — while Decatur was in his prime. I 
had written home with reference to some study, in which 
probably I did not shine, " What did Decatur know about 

38 



NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR 

such things?" A boy may be pardoned for laying himself 
open to the retort which so many of his superiors equally 
invited : " Depend upon it, if Decatur had been a student 
at the Academy, he would, so far as his abilities permitted, 
have got as far to the front as he always did in fighting. 
He always aimed to be first. It is told of him that he 
commanded one of two ships ordered on a common ser- 
vice, in which the other arrived first at a point on the way. 
Her captain, instead of pushing forward, waited for De- 
catur to come up ; on hearing which the latter exclaimed in 

his energetic way, ' The d d fool!' " Decatur, however, 

also shared, and shared inevitably, the prepossessions of 
his day. I was told by Mr. Charles King, when President 
of Columbia College, that he had been present in company 
with Decatur at one of the early experiments in steam 
navigation. Crude as the appliances still were, demon- 
stration was conclusive; and Decatur, whatever his prej- 
udices, was open to conviction. "Yes," he said, gloomily, 
to King, " it is the end of our business ; hereafter any man 
who can boil a tea-kettle will be as good as the best of us." 
It is notable that in my day a tradition ran that Decatur 
himself was not thoroughly a seaman. The captain of the 
first ship in which I served after graduation, a man of much 
solid information, who had known the commodore's con- 
temporaries, speaking about some occurrence, said to me, 
" The trouble with Decatur was, that he was not a seaman." 
I repeated the remark to one of our lieutenants, and he 
ejaculated, with emphasis, "Yes, that is true." I cannot 
tell how far these opinions were the result of prepossession in 
those from whom they derived. There had been hard and 
factious division in the navy of Decatur's day, culminating 
in the duel in which he fell; and the lieutenant, at least, 
was associated by family ties with Decatur's antagonist. 
To deny that the methods of the Naval Academy were 
open to criticism would be to claim for them infallibility. 

39 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

Upon the whole, however, in my time they erred rather on 
the side of being over-conservative than unduly progressive. 
Twenty years later, recalling some of our Academy ex- 
periences to one of my contemporaries, himself more a 
man of action than a student, and who had meanwhile 
distinguished himself by extraordinary courage in the War 
of Secession — I mean Edward Terry — he said, "Oh yes, 
those were the days before the flood." The hold-back ele- 
ment was strong, though not sufficiently so to suit such as 
my friend of the railroad. Objectors laid great stress on 
the word "practical;" than which, with all its most re- 
spectable derivation and association, I know none more 
frequently — nor more effectually — used as a bludgeon for 
slaying ideas. Strictly, of course, it means knowing how 
to do things, and doing them; but colloquially it usually 
means doing them before learning how. Leap before you 
look. The practical part is bruising your shins for lack of 
previous reflection. Of course, no one denies the educa- 
tional value of breaking your shins, and everything else 
your own — a burnt child dreads the fire; but the question 
remains whether an equally good result may not be reached 
at less cost, and so be more really practical. I recall the 
fine scorn with which one of our professors, Chauvenet, a 
man of great and acknowledged abiUty, practical and other, 
used to speak of "practical men." "Now, young gentle- 
men, in adjusting your theodolites in the field, remember 
not to bear too hard on the screws. Don't put them down 
with main force, as though the one object w^as never to 
unscrew them. If you do, you indent the plate, and it 
will soon be quite impossible to level the instrument proper- 
ly. That," he would continue, " is the way with your prac- 
tical men. There, for instance, is Mr. ," naming an 

assistant in another department, known to the midshipmen 
as Bull-pup, who I suppose had been a practical surveyor; 
"that is what he does." I presume the denunciation was 

40 



NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR 

due to B. P. having at one time borrowed an instrument 
from the department, and returned it thus maltreated. 
But "practical," so misapplied — action without thought — 
was Chauvenet's red rag. 

An amusing reminiscence, illustrative of the same com- 
mon tendency, was told me by General Howard. I had 
the pleasure of meeting Howard, then in command of one 
wing of Sherman's army, at Savannah, just after the con- 
clusion of the march to the sea, in 1864. He spoke pleas- 
antly of his associations with my father, when a cadet at 
the Military Academy, and added, "I remember how he 
used to say, 'A httle conomon-sense, Mr. Howard, a little 
common-sense.'" Howard did not say what particular 
occasions he then had in mind, but a student reciting, and 
confronted suddenly with some question, or step in a de- 
monstration, which he has failed to master, or upon which 
he has not reflected, is apt to feel that the practical thing 
to do is not to admit ignorance; to trust to luck and an- 
swer at random. Such a one, explaining a drawing of a 
bridge to my father, was asked by him what was repre- 
sented by certain Hues, showing the up-stream part of a 
pier. Not knowing, he replied, "That is a hole to catch 
the ice in." " Imagine," said my father, in telling me the 
story, "catching all the ice from above in holes in the 
piers." A little common-sense — exercised first, not after- 
wards — is the prescription against leaping before you look, 
or jamming your screws too hard. 

To substitute acquired common-sense — knowledge and 
reflection — for the cruder and tardier processes of learning 
by hard personal experience and mistakes, is, of course, the 
object of all education; and it was this which caused the 
foundation of the Naval Academy, behind which at its 
beginning lay the initiative of some of the most reputed 
and accomplished senior officers of the nsLvy, conscious of 
the needless difficulties they themselves had had to sm*- 

41 



FROM SAIL TO STEA.AI 

mount in reaching the level they had. It involved no 
detraction from their professional excellence, the excellence 
of men professionally self-made; but none comprehend the 
advantages of education better than candid men who have 
made their way without it. By the time I entered, how- 
ever, there had been a decided, though not decisive, reaction 
in professional feeling. Ten years had elapsed since the 
founding of the school, and already development had gone 
so far that suspicion and antagonism were aroused. Up to 
1850 midshipmen went at once to sea, and, after five years 
there, spent one at Annapolis; whereupon followed the final 
examination for a lieutenancy. This effected, the man be- 
came a '^ passed" midshipman. Beginning with 1851, the 
system was changed. Four years at the Academy were re- 
quired, after which two at sea, and then examination. 
This, being a clean break with the past, outraged conserv- 
atism; it introduced such abominations as French and 
extended mathematics; much attention was paid to in- 
fantry drill — soldiering; the scheme was not "practical;" 
and it was doubtless tinje that the young graduate, despite 
six months of simimer cruising interposed between aca- 
demic terms, came comparatively green to shipboard. In 
that particular respect he could not but compare for the 
moment unfavorably with one who under the old plan 
would have spent four years on a ship's deck. Whether, 
that brief period of inexperience passed, he would not be 
permanently the better for the prior initiation into the 
rationale of his business, few inquired, and time had not 
yet had opportunity to show. 

Perhaps, too, there was among the graduates something 
of the '^freshness" which is attributed to the same age in 
leaving a miiversity. I do not think it; the immediate 
contact with conditions but partly familiar to us, yet per- 
fectly familiar to all about us, excited rather a wholesome 
feeling of inferiority or inadequacy. We had yet to find 

42 



NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR 

ourselves. But there remained undoubtedly some antag- 
onism between the old and the new. Not that this ever 
showed itself offensively; nothing could have been kinder 
or more open-hearted than our reception by the lieuten- 
ants who had not known the Academy, and who probably 
depreciated it in their hearts. Whatever they thought, 
nothing was ever said that could reflect upon us, the out- 
come of the system. It was not even hinted that we 
might have been turned out in better shape under differ- 
ent conditions. From my personal experience, I hope we 
proved more satisfactory than may have been expected. 
When we returned home in 1861, just after the first battle 
of Bull Run, our third lieutenant said to me that he ex- 
pected a command, and would be glad to have me as his 
first lieutenant; and upon my detachment one of the war- 
rant officers expressed his regret that I was not remaining 
as one of the lieutenants of the ship. Both being men of 
mature years and long service, and with no obligation to 
speak, it is permissible to infer that they thought us fit 
at least to take the deck. As it was, in the uproar of those 
days, no questions were asked. The usual examinations 
were waived, and my class was hurried out of the midship- 
men's mess into the first-lieutenant's berth. Without ex- 
ception, I believe, we all had that duty at once — second to 
the captain — missing thereby the very valuable experience 
of the deck officer. In the face of considerable opposition, 
as I was told by Admiral Dupont, the leading officers of 
the day frustrated the attempt to introduce volunteer offi- 
cers from the merchant service over our heads; another 
proof of confidence in us, as at least good raw material. 
The longer practice of the others at sea was alleged as a 
reason for thus preferring them, which was seriously con- 
templated; but the reply was that acquaintance with the 
organization of a ship-of-war, with her equipment and ar- 
mament, the general military tone so quickly assimilated 

43 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

by the young and so hardly by the mature, outweighed 
completely any mere question of attainment in handUng a 
ship. As drill officers, too, the general excellence of the 
graduates was admitted. 

Within a fortnight of doing duty on the forecastle, as a 
midshipman, I thus found myself first lieutenant of a very 
respectable vessel. One of my shipmates, less quickly 
fortunate, was detailed to instruct a number of volunteer 
officers with the great guns and muskets. One of them 
said to him, '^ Yes, you can teach me this, but I expect I 
can teach you something in seamanship"; a freedom of 
speech which by itself showed imperfect military temper. 
At the same moment, I myself had a somewhat similar 
encounter, which illustrates why the old officers insisted 
on the superior value of military habit, and the neces- 
sarily unmilitary attitude, at first, of the volunteers. I 
had been sent momentarily to a paddle-wheel merchant- 
steamer, now purchased for a ship-of-war, the James Adger, 
which had plied between Charleston and New York. A 
day or two after joining, I saw two of the engineer force 
going ashore without my knowledge. I stopped them; and 
a few moments afterwards the chief engineer, who had long 
been in her when she was a packet, came to me with flaming 
eyes and angry voice to know by what right I interfered 
with his men. It had to be explained to him that, unlike 
the merchant-service, the engine-room was but a depart- 
ment of the military whole of the ship, and that other con- 
sent than his was necessary to their departure. A trivial 
incident, with a whole world of atmosphere behind it. 



Ill 

THE NAVAL ACADEMY IN ITS RELATION TO THE NAVY 

AT LARGE. 
1850-1860 

Probably there have been at all periods educational 
excesses in the outlook of some of the Naval Academy au- 
thorities; and I personally have sympathized in the main 
with those who would subordinate the technological ele- 
ment to the more strictly professional. I remember one 
superintendent — and he, unless rumor was in error, had 
been one of the early opposition — saying to me with mark- 
ed elation, "I believe we carry the calculus farther here 
than they do at West Point." I myself had then long 
forgotten all the calculus I ever knew, and I fear that with 
him, too, it was a case of omne ignotum "pro magnifico. A 
more curious extravagancy was uttered to me by a pro- 
fessor of applied mathematics. I had happened to say 
that, while it was well each student should have the oppor- 
tunity to acquire all he could in that department, I did not 
think it necessary that every officer of the deck should 
be able to calculate mathematically the relation between a 
weight he had to hoist on board and the power of the pur- 
chase he was about to use; which I think a mild proposition, 
considering the centuries during which that knowledge had 
been dispensed with. "Oh, I differ with you," he replied; 
"I think it of the utmost importance they should all be 
able to do so." Nothing like sails, said my friend the sail- 
maker; nothing like leather, says the shoemaker. I men- 
tioned this shortly afterwards to one of my colleagues, 
4 45 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

himself an officer of unusual mathematical and scientific 
attainment. "No!" he exclaimed; "did he really say 
that?'^ 

This was to claim for this mere head knowledge a falsely 
"practical" value, as distinguished from the educational 
value of the mental training involved, and from the un- 
doubted imperative need of such acquisitions in those who 
have to deal with problems of ship construction or other 
mechanical questions connected with naval material. His 
position was really as little practical as that of the men 
who opposed the Academy plan in general as unpractical; 
as little practical as it would be to maintain that it is essen- 
tial that every naval officer to-day should be skilled to 
handle a ship under sail, because the habit of the saiUng- 
ship educated, brought out, faculties and habits of the first 
value to the military man. Still, there is something not 
only excusable, but laudable, in a man magnifying his 
office; and it was well that my friend the professor should 
have a slightly exaggerated idea of the bearing of the cal- 
culus on the daily routine or occasional emergencies of a 
ship. What is needed is a counterpoise, to correct undue 
deflection of the like kind, to which an educational institu- 
tion from its very character and object is always liable. 
That the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the 
Sabbath, is a saying of wide application. The adminis- 
trator tends to think more of his administrative machine 
than of the object for which it exists, and the educator to 
forget that while the foundation is essential, it yet exists 
only for the building, which is the "practical" end in view. 
The object of naval education is to make a naval officer. 
Too much as well as too little of one ingredient will mar 
the compound ; and if exaggeration cannot be wholly avoid- 
ed, it had better rest upon the professional side. This 
was the function discharged by the critical attitude of the 
outside service, such as my friend of the railroad; at times 

46 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

somewhat irrational, but still as a check effective after the 
niaimer of other public opinion, of which in fact it was an 
instance. 

In September, 1856, when I entered, professional in- 
fluence was perhaps in excess. The preceding June had 
seen the graduation of the last class of ^' oldsters" — of those 
who, after five years at sea, had spent the sixth at the 
Academy, subjected formally to its discipline and methods. 
I therefore just missed seeing that phase of the Academy's 
history; but I could not thereby escape the traces of its 
influence. However transient, this lasted my time. It 
may be imagined what an influential, yet incongruous, 
element in a crowd of boys was constituted by introducing 
among them twenty or thirty young men, too young for 
ripeness, yet who for five years had been bearing the not 
shght responsibility of the charge of seamen, often on duty 
away from their superiors, and permitted substantially all 
the powers and privileges conceded to their seniors, men 
of mature years. How could such be brought under the 
curb of the narrowly ordered life of the school, for the 
short eight months to which they knew the ordeal was re- 
stricted? Could this have been attempted seriously, there 
would probably have been an explosion; but in truth, as 
far as my observation went, most of the disciplinary offi- 
cers, the lieutenants, rather sjnnpathized with irregularities, 
within pretty wide limits. A midshipman was a being 
who traditionally had little but the exuberance of his 
spirits to make up for the discomforts of his lot. The 
comprehensive saying that what was nobody's business 
was a midshipman's business epitomized the harrying of 
his daily life, with its narrow quarters, hard fare, and con- 
stant hustling for poor pay. Like the seaman, above whom 
in earlier days he stood but little, the midshipman had then 
only his jollity — and his youth — to compensate; and also 
like the seaman a certain recklessness was conceded to his 

47 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

moments of enjoyment. The very name carried with it 
the privilege of froHcking. 

The old times of license among seafaring men were still 
of recent memory, and, though practice had improved, 
opinion remained tolerant. The gunner of the first ship 
in which I served after graduation told me that in 1832, 
when he was a young seaman before the mast on board 
a sloop-of-war in the Mediterranean, on Christmas Eve, 
there being a tw^o-knot breeze — that is, substantially, calm 
— at sundowTi the ship was put under two close-reefed 
topsails for the night — storm canvas — and then the jollity 
began. How far it was expected to go may be inferred 
from the precautions ; and we gain here some inkling of the 
phrase "heavy weather" applied to such conditions. But 
of the same ship he told me that she stood into the harbor 
of Malta under all sail, royal and studding sails, to make 
a flying moor; which, I must explain to the unprofessional, 
is to drop an anchor under sail, the cable running out imder 
the force of the ship's way till the place is reached for let- 
ting go the second anchor, the ship finally being brought 
to lie midway between the two. An accurate eye, a close 
judgment as to the ship's speed, and absolute promptness 
of execution are needed; for all the sail that is on w^hen 
the first anchor goes must be off before the second. In 
this case nothing was started before the first. AVithin 
fifteen minutes all was in, the ship moored, sails furled, 
and yards squared, awaiting doubtless the final touches 
of the boatswain. Whether the flag of the port was saluted 
within the same quarter-hour, I w^ill not undertake to say; 
it would be quite in keeping to have attempted it. System, 
preparation, and various tricks of the trade go far to fa- 
cilitate such rapidity. Now I dare say that some of my 
brother officers may cavil at this story; but I personally 
believe it, with perhaps two or three minutes' allowance 
for error in clocks. Much may be accepted of seamen who 

48 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

not uncommonly reefed topsails "in stays" — that is, while 
the ship was being tacked. Of the narrator's good faith I 
am certain. It was not with him one of the stock stories 
told about "the last cruise;" nor was he a romancer. It 
came naturally in course of conversation, as one tells any 
experience; and he added, when the British admiral re- 
turned the commander's visit he complimented the ship 
on the smartest performance he had ever seen. But it is 
in the combination of license and smartness that the pith 
of these related stories lies; between them they embody 
much of the spirit of a time which in 1855 was remembered 
and influential. Midway in the War of Secession I met 
the first lieutenant who held the trumpet in that memorable 
manoeuvre — a man of 1813; now a quiet, elderly, slow- 
spoken old gentleman, retired, with little to suggest the 
smart officer, at the stamp of whose foot the ship's com- 
pany jumped, to use the gunner's expression. 

Such performances exemplify the ideals that still ob- 
tained — were in full force — in the navy as first I knew 
it. In the ship in which the gunner and I were then serv- 
ing, it was our common performance to "Up topgallant- 
masts and yards, and loose sail to a bowline," in three 
minutes and a half from the time the topmen and the 
masts started aloft together from the deck. For this time 
I can vouch myself, and we did it fairly, too; though I dare 
say we would have hesitated to carry the sails in a stiff 
breeze without a few minutes more. It was a very dra- 
matic and impressive performance. The band, with drum 
and fife, was part of it. When all was reported ready from 
the three masts — but not before — it was permitted to 
be eight o'clock. The drums gave three rolls, the order 
"Sway across, let fall," was given, the yards swung into 
their places, the sails dropped and were dragged out by 
their bowlines to facilitate their drying, the bell struck 
eight, the flag was hoisted, and close on the drums followed 

49 



FROxM SAIL TO STEAM 

the band playing the "Star-Spangled Banner," while the 
ship's company went to breakfast. It was the transfor- 
mation scene of a theatre; within five minutes the meta- 
morphosis was complete. There was doubtless a flavor 
of the circus about it all, but it was a wholesome flavor and 
tonicked the professional appetite. Yes, and the natural 
appetite, too; your breakfast tasted better, especially if 
some other ship had got into trouble with one of her yards 

or sails. " Did you see what a mess the made of 

fore-topgallant-yard this morning?" An old boatswain's 
mate of the ship used to tell me one of his "last-cruise" 
stories, of when he " was in the Delaware, seventy-four, up 
the Mediterranean, in 1842." Of course, the Delaware had 
beaten the Congresses time; the last ship always did. Then 
he would add: "I was in the foretop in those days, and 
had the fore-topgallant-yard; and if one of us fellows let 
his yard show on either side of the mast before the order 
'Sway across,' we could count on a dozen when we got 
down just as sure as we could count on our breakfast." 
Flogging was not abolished until about 1849. No wonder 
men were jolly when they could be, without worrying about 
to-morrow's headache. 

Part of the preparation was to let the captain know be- 
forehand that it was eight o'clock, and get his authority 
that it might be so; subject always to the yet higher au- 
thority that the yards and sails were ready. If they were 
not, so much the worse for eight o'clock. It had to wait 
quite as imperatively as the sun did for Joshua. Sunset, 
when the masts and yards came down, was equally under 
bonds; it awaited the pleasure of the captain or admiral. 
Indeed, in my time a story ran of a court-martial at a 
much earlier day, sitting in a capital case. By law, each 
day's session must end by sundown. On the occasion in 
question, sundown was reported to the admiral — or, rather, 
commodore; we had no admirals then. He sent to know 

50 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

how soon the court could finish. The reply was, in about 
fifteen minutes. " Tell the ofhcer of the deck not to make 
it sundown until he hears from me ;" and, in defiance of the 
earth's movement, the colors were kept flying in attestation 
that the sun was up. One other hour of the twenty-four, 
noon, was brought in like manner to the captain's atten- 
tion, and required his action, but it was treated with more 
deference; recognition rather than authority was meted to 
it, and it was never known to be tampered with. The cir- 
cumstance of the sun's crossing the ship's meridian was 
unique in the day; and the observation of the fact, which 
drew on deck all the navigating group with their instru- 
ments, establishing the latitude immediately and precisely, 
was of itself a principal institution of the ship's economy. 
Such claims w^ere not open to trifling; and w^ere there not 
also certain established customs, almost vested interests, 
such as the seven-bell nip, cocktail or otherwise, connected 
with the half -hour before, when " the sun was over the fore- 
yard"? I admit I never knew whence the latter phrase 
originated, nor just what it meant, but it has associations. 
Like sign language, it can be understood. 

I was myself shipmate, as they say, with most of 
this sort of thing; for with its good points and its bad it 
did not disappear until the War of Secession, the exigencies 
of which drove out alike the sails and the sailor. The 
abolition of the grog ration in 1862 may be looked upon 
as a chronological farewell to a picturesque past. We did 
not so understand it. Contemporaries are apt to be blind 
to bloodless revolutions. Had we seen the full bearing, 
perhaps there might have been observed a professional 
sundown, in recognition of the fact that the topgallant- 
yards had come down for the last time, ending one pro- 
fessional era. A protest was recorded by one eccentric 
character, a survival whom Cooper unfortunately never 
knew, who hoisted a whiskey demijohn at the peak of his 

51 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

gun-boat — the ensign's allotted place. To the admiraFs 
immediate demand for an explanation, he replied that that 
was the flag he served under; but he was one of those to 
whom all things are forgiven. The seaman remains, and 
must always remain while there are seas to cross and to 
rule; but the sailor, in his accomplishments and in his de- 
fects, began then to depart, or to be evolutionized into 
something entirely different. I am bound to admit that 
in the main the better has survived, but, now that such 
hairs as I have are gray, I may be permitted to look back 
somewhat wistfully and affectionately on that which I re- 
member a half-century ago; perhaps to sympathize with 
the seamen of the period, who saw themselves swamped 
out of sight and influence among the vast numbers re- 
quired by the sudden seven or eight fold expansion of the 
navy for that momentous conflict. Occasionally one of 
these old salts, mournful amid his new environment, would 
meet me, and say, "Ah! Mr. Mahan, the navy isn't what it 
was!" True, in 1823, Lord St. Vincent, then verging on 
ninety, had made the same remark to George IV.; and I 
am quite sure, if the aged admiral had searched his mem- 
ory, he could have recalled it in the mouth of some veteran 
of 1750. The worst of it is, this is perennially true. From 
period to period the gain exceeds, but still there has been 
loss as well; and to sentiment, ranging over the past, the 
loss stands more conspicuous. "Memory reveals every 
rose, but secrete th its thorn." 

This is the more apparent when the change has been 
sudden, or on such a scale as to overwhelm, by mere bulk, 
that subtle influence for which we owe to the French the 
name of esprit de corps. It is the breath of the body, the 
breath of life. Before the War of Secession our old friends 
the marines had a deserved reputation for fidelity, which 
could not survive the big introduction of alien matter into 
the "corps." I remember hearing an officer of long ser- 

52 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

vice say that he had known but a single instance of a 
marine deserting; and as to the general fact there was no 
dissent among the by-standers. The same could scarcely 
be said now, nor of seamen then. The sentiment of par- 
ticular faithfulness had been nurtured in the British marines 
under times and conditions which made them at a critical 
moment the saviors of discipline, and thereby the saviors 
of the state. It is needless to philosophize the strength 
of such a tradition, so established, nor its effect on each 
member of the body; and from thence, not improbably, it 
was transmitted to our younger navy. Whencever com- 
ing, there it was. One marine private, in the ship to 
which I belonged, returning from liberty on shore, was 
heard saying to another with drunken impressiveness, 
"Remember, our motto is, ^Patriotism and laziness.'" Of 
course, this went round the ship, greatly delighting on both 
counts our marine officers, and became embodied in the 
chaff that passed to and fro between the two corps; of 
which one saying, " The two most useless things in a ship 
were the captain of marines and the mizzen-royal," de- 
serves for its drollery to be committed to writing, now that 
mizzen-royals have ceased to be. May it be long before 
the like extinction awaits the captains of marines! Our 
own, however, an eccentric man, who had accomplished 
the then rare feat of working his way up from the ranks, 
used to claim that marines were an absurdity. "It is 
having one army to keep another army in order," he would 
say. This was once* true, and might with equal truth be 
said of a city police force — one set of citizens to keep the 
other citizens orderly. In the olden time it had been the 
application of the sound statesmanship dogma, '^Divide 
et impera.'' For this, in the navy, happily, the need no 
longer exists; but I can see no reason to believe the time 
at hand when we can dispense with a corps of seamen, the 
specialty of which is infantry — and shore expedition w^hen 

53 



FROM SAIL TO STE.A3I 

necessary. Patriotism, as our marine miderstood it, wa^- 
sticking by yom* colors and yom* corps, and doing your 
duty through thick and thm; no bad ideal. 

In like mingling of good and e\al, the oldsters at the 
Xaval Academy, along with some things objectionable, in- 
cluding a hberty that under the conditions too often re- 
sembled license, brought with them sound traditions, 
which throughout my stay there constituted a real esprit 
de corps. In nothing was this more conspicuous than in 
the attitude towards hazmg. Owing to circumstances I 
will mention later, I entered at once the class which, as I 
understand, most usually perjDetrated the outrageous prac- 
tices that became a scandal in the countr}' — the class, that 
is, which is entering on its second year at the Academy. 
^ly home having always been at the ^lilitan,'' Academy, 
I, without much thinking, expected to find rife the same 
proceedings which had prevailed there from time to me 
immemorial. Such anticipations made deeper and more 
lasting the impression produced by the contrar}- state of 
things, and yet more by the wholly different tone prevalent 
at Annapolis. Not only was hazmg not practised, but it 
scarcely obtained even the recognition of mention: it was 
not so much reprobated as ignored; and, if it came under 
discussion at all, it was dismissed with a turn of the nose, 
as something altogether beneath us. That is not the sort 
of thing we do here. It may be all ver}' well at West 
Point — much as " what would do for a marine could not be 
thought of for a seaman" — but we were ''officers and gen- 
tlemen," and thought no small beans of ourselves as such. 
There were at times absurd manifestations of this same pre- 
cocioas dignity, of which I may speak later: still, as O'Brien 
said of Boatswain Chucks, "You may laugh at such as- 
smnptions of gentility, but did any one of his shipmates 
ever know Mr. Chucks to do an unliandsome or a mean 
action? — and why? Because he aspired to be a gentleman." 

54 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

While I can vouch for this general state of feeling, I can- 
not be sure of its derivation; but I have always thought it 
due to the presence during the previous five years of the 
"oldsters," nominally under the same discipline as our- 
selves, but looked up to with the respect and observance 
which ai that age are naturally given to those two or three 
seasons older. And these men were not merely more ad- 
vanced in years. They were matured beyond their age 
by early habits of responsibility and command, and them- 
selves imbued by constant contact with the spirit of the 
phrase "an officer and a gentleman," which constitutes the 
norm of mihtary conduct. Their intercourse with their 
seniors on board ship had been much closer than that which 
was possible at the school. This atmosphere they brought 
with them to a position from which they could not but 
most powerfully influence us. How far the tradition might 
have been carried on, in smooth seas, I do not know; 
but along with many other things, good and bad, it was 
shattered by the War of Secession. The school was precip- 
itately removed to Newport, where it was established in 
extemporized and temporary surroundings; the older un- 
dergraduates were hurried to sea, while the new entries were 
huddled together on two sailing frigates moored in the 
harbor, dissociated from the influence of those above them. 
The whole anatomy and, so to say, nervous sj^stem of the 
organization were dislocated. For better or for worse, 
perhaps for better and for worse, the change was more like 
death and resurrection than life and growth. The potent 
element which the oldster had contributed, and the upper 
classes absorbed and perpetuated, was eliminated at once 
and entirely by the detachment of the senior cadets and 
the segregation of the new-comers. New ideals were 
evolved by a mass of school-boys, severed from those 
elder associates wrth the influence of whom no professors 
nor officers can vie. How hazing came up I do not know, 

55 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

and am not writing its history. I presume it is one of the 
inevitable weeds that school-boy nature brings forth of 
itself, unless checked by unfavorable environment. I mere- 
ly note its almost total absence in my time ; its subsequent 
existence was unhappily notorious. 

A general good-humored tolerance, easy-going, and de- 
pending upon a mutual understanding, none the less clear 
because informal, characterized the relations of the officers 
and students. Primarily, each were in the appreciation 
of the other officers and gentlemen. So far there was im- 
plicit equality; and while the ones were in duty bound to 
enforce academic regulations, which the others felt an equal 
obligation to disregard, it was a kind of game in which they 
did not much mind being losers, provided we did not tres- 
pass on the standards of the gentleman, and of the officer 
liberally construed. They, I think, had an unacknowledged 
feeling that while under school-boy, or collegiate, discipline 
as to times or manners, some relaxation of strict official 
correctness must be endured. Larking, sometimes up- 
roarious, met with personal sympathy, if official condem- 
nation. Nor did we resent being detected by what we 
regarded as fair means; to which we perhaps gave a pretty 
wide interpretation. The exceptional man, who inspected 
at unaccustomed hours, which we considered our own pre- 
scriptive right — though not by rules — who came upon us 
unawares, was apt to be credited with rather unofficer-like 
ideas of what was becoming, and suspected of the not 
very gentlemanly practice of wearing noiseless rubber shoes. 
That intimation of his approach was conveyed by us from 
room to room by concerted taps on the gas-pipes was fair 
war; nor did our opponents seem to mind what they could 
not but clearly hear. Indeed, I think most of them were 
rather glad to find evidences of order and propriety pre- 
vailing, where possibly but for those kindly signals they 
might have detected matter for report. 

56 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

There was one lieutenant, however, the memory of whom 
was still green as a bay-tree in my day, though it would 
have been blasted indeed could cursing have blighted it, 
to whom the game of detective seemed to possess the fas- 
cination of the chase; and so successful was he that his 
baffled opponents could not view the matter dispassionate- 
ly, nor accept their defeat in sportsman-like spirit. I knew 
him later; he had a saturnine appearance, not calculated 
to concihate a victim, but he liked a joke, especially of the 
practical kind, and for the sake of one successfully achieved 
could forgive an offender. Night surprises, inroads on the 
enemy's country, at the hours when we were mistakenly 
supposed to be safe in bed, and regulations so required, were 
favorite stratagems with him. On one occasion, so tradi- 
tion ran, some half-dozen midshipmen had congregated in 
a room "after taps," and, with windows carefully darkened, 
had contrived an extempore kitchen to fry themselves a 
mess of oysters. The process was slow, owing to the num- 
ber of oysters the pan could take at once and the large- 
ness of the expectant appetites; but it had progressed 
nearly to completion, when without premonition the door 

opened and appeared. He asked no questions and 

offered no comments, but, walking to the platter, seized it 
and threw out of the window the accumulated results of 
an hour's weary work. No further notice of the delin- 
quency followed; the discomfiture of the sufferers suffi- 
ciently repaid his sense of humor. At another midnight 
hour a midshipman visiting in a room not his, lured thither, 
let us hope, by the charms of intellectual conversation, was 
warned by the gas-pipes that the enemy was on the war- 
path. Retreat being cut off, he took refuge under a bed, 

but unwittingly left a hand visible. caught sight 

of it, walked to the bed, flashed his lantern in the eyes of 
its occupant, who naturally was sleeping as never before, 
and at the same time trod hard on the exposed fingers. A 

57 



]'ROM 8AII. TO STEAM 

squeal followed this unexfxicted atUtniiou, ami Unt culjjrit 
liad to drag himself out; but the lieuteuarit was satisfied, 
and let him go at that. 

I have said that larking nK^t with more than toleration 
— with sympathy. The once magic word "midshipman'' 
seemed to cloak any outburst of frolicking; otherwise some 
exhibitions I witnessed could scarcely have pass(id un- 
scathed. They were felt to be in character by the older 
officers; and, while obliged to reprehend, I doubt whether 
some of them would not have more enjoyed taking a share. 
They knew, too, that we were just as proud as they of the 
service, and that under all lay an entire readiness to do or 
to submit to that which we and they alike recognized as 
duty. Sometimes rioting went rather too far, but for the 
most part it was harmless. One rather grave incident, 
shortly before my entry, derived its humor mainly from the 
way in which it was treated by the su[x;rintendent. One 
of the out-buildings of the Academy, either because offen- 
sive or out of sheer deviltry, was set on fire and destroyed. 
The perpetrator of this startling practical joke was Alex- 
ander F. Crosman, of the '.51 Date, whom many of us yet 
living remember well. Hmall in stature, with something 
of the "chip-on-the-shoulder" characU^ristic, ofU^n seen in 
such, he was conspicuous for a certain chivalrous gallantry 
of thought and mien, the reflection of a native brilliant 
courage; a trait which in the end caxmctd his death, about 
1870, by drowning, in the effort to save an imperilled boat's 
crew. The suf>erint(mdent, a man of ponderous dimen- 
sions, and equally ponderous but rapid spt^ech — though it 
is due to say also unusually accomplished, l>oth pn^fession- 
ally and personally — was greatly outraged and excited at 
this defiance of discipline. The day follov^ing he went out 
to meet the corps, when it had just left some formation, 
and, calling a halt, delivered a sp(^ech on the basis of the 
Articles of War, a copy of wliich he brandislied befoni his 

58 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

audience. These ancient ordinances, among many other 
denunciations of naval crimes and misdemeanors, pro- 
nounced the punishment of death, or "such other worse" 
as a court-martial might adjudge, upon "any person in 
the Navy who shall maliciously set on fire, or otherwise 
destroy, any government property not then in the pos- 
session of an enemy, ^pirate, or rebel.'' The gem of oratory 
hereupon erected was paraphrased as follows by the cul- 
prit himself, aided and abetted in his lyrical flight by his 
room-mate, John S. Barnes, w^ho, after graduating left the 
service, returned for the War of Secession, and subse- 
quently resigned finally. To this survivor of the two col- 
laborators I owe the particulars of the affair. How many 
more "traitors" there were I know not. Those who recall 
the speaker will recognize that the parody must have fol- 
lowed closely the real words of the address : 

*' Young gentlemen assembled! — 
It makes no matter where — 
I only want to speak to you, 
So hear me where you are. 

''Some vile incendiary 

Last night was prowling round, 
Who set fire to our round-house 
And burned it to the ground. 



" I'll read the Naval Law; 

The man who dares to burn 
A round-house, — not the Enemy 's,- 
A traitor's fate shall learn. 

" And if a man there be, 

Who does this traitor know, 
And keeps it to himself, 
He shall suffer death also! 
59 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

''Tis well, then, to tell, then, 
Who did this grievous ill; 
And, d — n him, I will hang him, 
So help me God! I wiU!" 



If anything could have added to the gayety of the fire, 
such an outburst would. 

In after years I sailed under the command of this speech- 
maker. At monthly musters he reserved to himself the 
prerogative of reading the ArticleSj probably thinking that 
he did it more effectively than the first lieutenant; in 
which he was quite right. It so happened that, owing to 
doubt whether a certain paragraph applied to the Marine 
Corps, Congress had been pleased to make a special enact- 
ment that the word "persons" in such and such a clause 
"should be construed to include marines.'^ Coming as 
this did near the end, some humorist was moved to remark 
that the first Sunday in the month muster w^as for the pur- 
pose of informing us authoritatively that a marine was a 
person. As the captain read this interesting announce- 
ment, his voice assumed a gradual crescendo, concluding 
with a profound emphasis on the word "marines," which 
he accompanied with a haK turn and a flourish of the book 
towards that honorable body, drawn up in full imiform, at 
parade rest, its venerable captain, whose sandy hair was 
fast streaking with gray, standing at its head, his hands 
meekly crossed over his sword-hilt, the blade hanging down 
before him; all doubtless suitably impressed with this defi- 
nition of their status, which for greater certainty they 
heard every month. It was very fine, very fine indeed; 
appealing to more senses than one. 

The shore drills — infantry and field artillery — furnished 
special occasions for organized — or disorganized — upheavals 
of animal spirits. For these exercises we then had scant 
respect. They were "soldiering;" and from time imme- 

60 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

morial soldier had been an adjective to express uselessness, 
or that which was so easy as to pass no man's abihty. A 
soldier's wind, for example, was a wind fair both ways — to 
go and to return; no demands on brains there, much less 
on seamanship. The curious irrelevancy of such applica- 
tions never strikes persons; unless, indeed, a perception of 
incongruity is the soul of wit, a definition which I think I 
have heard. To depart without the ceremony of saying 
good-bye takes its name from the most elaborately civil 
of people — French leave; while the least perturbable of 
nations has been made to contribute an epithet, Dutch, to 
the courage derived from the whiskey-bottle. In the lat- 
ter case, however, I fancy that, besides the tradition of 
long-ago national rivalries, there may have been the idea 
that to excite a Dutchman you must, as they say, light a 
fire under him; or as was forcibly remarked by a midship- 
man of my time of his phlegmatic room-mate, he had to 
kick him in the morning to get him started for the day. 

To return to the shore drills : these were then committed 
to one of the civil professors of the Academy, a fact which 
itself spoke for the familiarity with them of the sea lieu- 
tenants. As these always exercised us at ships' gims, the 
different estimation which the two obtained in the out- 
side service was too obvious to escape quick-witted young 
fellows, and it was difficult to overcome the resultant dis- 
respect. The professor was not one to effect the impos- 
sible. He was a graduate of West Point, a man of ability, 
not lacking in dignity, and personally worthy of all re- 
spect; but he stuttered badly, and this impediment not 
only received no mercy from youth, but interfered with the 
accuracy of manoeuvres where the word of command need- 
ed to be timely in utterance. Report ran that on one 
occasion, advancing by column of companies, while the 
professor was struggling with "H-H-H-Halt!" the lead- 
ing company, composed martyrs to discipline, marched 
s 61 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

over the sea-wall into three feet of water. Had the water 
been deeper, they might have been less literal. Despite 
his military training, his bearing and carriage had not the 
strong soldierly stamp which might redeem his infirmity, 
and even in the class-room a certain whimsical atmosphere 
seemed borne from the drill-ground. He, I believe, was the 
central figure of one of the most humorous scenes in Her- 
man Melville's White Jacket, a book which, despite its 
prejudiced tone, has preserved many amusing and inter- 
esting inside recollections of a ship-of-war of the olden time. 
The naval instructor on board the frigate is using Rodney's 
battle of 1782 to illustrate on the blackboard the princi- 
ples of naval tactics to the class of midshipmen. "Now, 
yomig gentlemen, you see this disabled French ship in the 
corner, far to windward of her fleet, between it and the 
enemy. She has lost all three masts, and the greater part 
of the ship's company are killed and woimded; what will 
you do to save her?" To this knotty problem many extem- 
porized "practical" answers are given, of which the most 
plausible is by Mr. Dash, of Virginia — "I should nail my 
colors to the mast and let her sink under me." As this 
could scarcely be called saving her, Mr. Dash is rebuked 
for irrelevance; but, after the gamut of possible solutions 
has been well guessed over, the instructor announces 
impressively, "That ship, young gentlemen, cannot be 
saved." 

I cannot say that he dealt with us thus tantalizingiy ; 
but one of my contemporaries used to tell a story of his 
personal experience which w^as generically allied to the 
above. At the conclusion of some faulty manceuvre, the 
instructor remarked aloud: "This all went wrong, owing 
to Mr. P.'s not standing fast in his own person. We 
will now repeat it, for the particular benefit of Mr. P." 
The repetition ensued, and in its course the instructor 
called out, "Be careful, ^Ir. P., and stand fast where 

62 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

you are." "I am standing fast/' replied P., incautiously. 
"R-R-Report Mr. P. for talking in ranks." At the Acad- 
emy, naval tactics were not within his purview; and of all 
our experiences with him in the class-room, one ludicrous in- 
cident alone remains with me. One of my class, though in 
most ways well at head, was a little alarmed about his 
standing in infantry tactics. He therefore at a critical 
occasion attempted to carry the text-book with him to the 
blackboard. This surreptitious deed, being not to get ad- 
vantage over a fellow, but to save himself, was condoned 
by public opinion; but, being unused to such deceits, in 
his agitation he copied his figure upside down and became 
hopelessly involved in the demonstration. The professor 
next day took occasion to comment slightingly on our 

general performance, but "as to Mr. ," he added, 

derisively, "he did r-r-r- wretchedly." 

I sometimes wonder that we learned anything about 
"soldiering," but we did in a way. The principles and 
theory were mastered, if performance was slovenly; and in 
execution, as company officers, we got our companies 
"there," although just how we did it might be open to 
criticism. In our last year the adjutant in my class, who 
graduated at its head, on the first occasion of forming the 
battalion, after some moments of visible embarrassment 
could think of no order more appropriate than " Form your 
companies fore and aft the pavement." Fore and aft is 
"lengthwise" of a ship. No humiliation attended such a 
confession of ignorance — on that subject; but had the same 
man "missed stays" when in charge of the deck, he would 
have been sorely mortified. His successor of to-day prob- 
ably never will have a chance to miss stays. There thus 
ran through our drills an undercurrent of levity, which on 
provocation would burst out almost spontaneously into ab- 
surdity. On one occasion the battalion was drawn up in 
line, fronting at some distance the five buildings which then 

63 



FROM SAIL TO STEAIVI 

constituted the midshipmen's quarters. The intimation 
was given that we were to advance and then charge. Once 
put in motion, I know not whether stuttering lost the op- 
portunity of stopping us, but the pace became quicker and 
quicker till the whole body broke into a run, rushed cheer- 
ing tumultuously through the passages between the houses, 
and reformed, peaceably enough, on the other side. The 
captains all got a wigging for failing to keep us in hand; 
but they were powerless. The whole thing was without 
preconcertment or warning. It could hardly have hap- 
pened, however, had the instinct of discipline been as 
strong in these drills as in others. 

A more deliberate prank was played with the field ar- 
tillery. These light pieces, being of the nature of cannon 
rather than muskets, obtained more deference, being rec- 
ognized as of the same genus with the great guns which 
then constituted a ship's broadside. On one occasion 
they were incautiously left out overnight on the drill- 
ground. Between tattoo and taps, 9.30 to 10 p. m., was 
always a half-hour of release from quarters. There was 
mischief ready-made for idle hands to do. The guns were 
taken in possession, rushed violently to and fro in mock 
drill performance, and finally taken to pieces, the parts 
being scattered promiscuously in all directions. Dawn 
revealed an appearance of havoc resembling a popular im- 
pressionist representation of a battle-field. Here a caisson 
with its boxes, severed from their belongings, stretched its 
long pole appealingly towards heaven; the wheels had been 
dispersed to distant qu rters of the ground and lay on 
their sides; elsewhere were the guns, sometimes reversed 
and solitary, at others not wholly dismounted, canted at 
an angle, with one wheel in place. As there were six of 
them, complete in equipments, the scene was extensive 
and of most admired confusion; ingenuity had exhausted 
itself in variety, to enhance picturesqueness of effect. How 

64 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

the lieutenant in charge accounted for all this happening 
without his interference, I do not know. Certainly there 
was noise enough, but then that haK-hour always was 
noisy. The superintendent of that time had, when walk- 
ing, a trick of grasping the lapel of his coat with his right 
hand, and twitching it when preoccupied. The following 
day, as he surveyed conditions, it seemed as if the lapel 
might come aw^ay; but he made us no speech, nor, as far 
as I know, was any notice taken of the affair. No real 
damage had been done, and the man would ind(;ed have 
been hard-heartedly conscientious who would giudge the 
action which showed him so comical a sight. 

I once heard an excellent first lieutenant — Farragut's 
own through the principal actions of the War of Secession 
— say that where there was obvious inattention to uniform 
there would always be found slackness in discipline. It 
may be, therefore, that our habits as to imif orm were symp- 
tomatic of the same easy tolerance which bore with such 
extravagances as I have mentioned; the like of which, in 
overt act, was not known to me in my later association 
with the Academy as an officer. We had a prescribed 
uniform, certainly; but regulations, like legislative acts, 
admit of much variety of interpretation and latitude in 
practice, unless there is behind them a strong pubhc senti- 
ment. In my earlier days there was no public sentiment 
of the somewhat martinet kind; such as would compel all 
alike to wear an overcoat because the captain felt cold. 
In practice, there was great laxity in details. I remember, 
in later days and later manners, when we were all com- 
pelled to be well buttoned up to the throat, a young officer 
remarked to me disparagingly of another, "He's the sort 
of man, you know, who would wear a frock-coat un- 
buttoned." There's nothing like classification. My friend 
had achieved a feat in natural history; in ten words he 
had defined a species. On another occasion the same man 

65 



FROM SAIL TO STEAJM 

remorselessly wiped out of existence another species, con- 
secrated by generations of blue-books and Naval Regula- 
tions. "1 know nothing of superior officers/^ he said; 
"senior officers, if you choose; but superior, no!'^ Whether 
the Naval Regulations have yet recognized this obvious 
distinction, whether it is no longer "superior officers,'^ but 
only senior officers, who are not to be " treated wdth con- 
tempt," etc., I have not inquired. Apart from such amus- 
ing criticism of the times past, it is undoubtedly-true that 
attention to minutisi is symptomatic of a much more im- 
portant underlying spirit, one of exactness and precision 
running through all the management of a ship and affect- 
ing her efficiency. I concede that a thing so trifling as the 
buttoning of a frock-coat may indicate a development and 
survival of the fittest; but in 1855-60 frock-coats had 
not been disciplined, and in accordance with the tone of the 
general service we midshipmen were tacitly indulged in a 
similar freedom. This tolerance may have been in part a 
reaction from the vexatious and absurd interference of a 
decade before w^ith such natural rights as the cut of the 
beard — not as matter of neatness, but of pattern. Even for 
some time after I graduated, unless I misunderstood my 
informants, officers in the British na^ y were not permitted 
to wear a full beard, nor a mustache; and we had out- 
breaks of similar regulative annoyance in our own service, 
one of which furnished Melville with a striking chapter. 
Discussing the matter in my presence once, the captain 
of a frigate said, "There is one reply to objectors; if they 
do not wish to conform, they can leave the service." Clear- 
ly, however, a middle-aged man cannot throw up his pro- 
fession thus easily. 

Another circumstance that may have contributed to in- 
difference to details of dress was the carefulness with which 
the old-time sea officers had constantly to look after the set 
and trim of the canvas. Every variation of the wind, every 

66 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

change of course, every considerable manoeuvre, involved 
corresponding changes in the disposition of the sails, which 
must be effected not only correctly, but with a minute exact- 
ness extending to half a hundred seemingly trivial details, 
upon precision in which depended — and justly — an officer's 
general reputation for officer-like character. Not only so, 
but the mere weight of rigging and sails, and the stretch- 
ing resultant on such strain, caused recurring derange- 
ments, which, permitted, became slovenliness. Yards ac- 
curately braced, sheets home alike, weather leaches and 
braces taut, with all the other and smidry indications 
which a well- trained eye instinctively sought and noted, 
were less the dandyism than the self-respecting neatness 
of a w^ell-dressed ship, and were no bad substitute, as 
tests, for buttoned frock-coats. The man without fault in 
the one might well be pardoned, by others as well as 
himself, for neglects which had never occurred to him to 
be such. His attention was centred elsewhere, as a man 
may think more of his wife's dress than his own. After all, 
one cannot be always stretched with four pins, as the 
French say; there must be some give somewhere. 

The frock was then the working coat of the navy. 
There was fuller dress for exceptional occasions, in which, 
at one festive muster early in the cruise, we all had to ap- 
pear, to show that we had it; but otherwise it was generally 
done up in camphor. Tlie jacket, which was prescribed 
to the midshipmen of the Academy, had informal recogni- 
tion in the service, and we took our surviving garments of 
that order with us to sea, to wear them out. But, while 
here and there some officer would sport one, they could 
scarcely be called popular. One of our lieutenants, indeed, 
took a somewhat sentimental view of the jacket. "There 
was Mr. S.," he said to me, speaking of a brother mid- 
shipman, "on deck yesterday with a jacket. It looked so 
tidy and becoming. If there had been anything aloft 

67 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

out of the way, 1 could say to him, ^Mr. S., just jump 
up there, will you, and see what is the matter?'" War, 
which soon afterwards followed with its stern preoccupa- 
tions and incidental deprivations, induced inevitably de- 
terioration in matters of dress. With it the sack-coat, or 
pilot-jacket, burrowed its way in, the cut and insignia of 
these showing many variations. The undergraduates at the 
Academy in my day had for all uses a double-breasted jack- 
et; but it was worn buttoned, or not, at choice. , On the 
rolling collar a gold foul anchor — an anchor, with a rope 
cable twined round it — was prescribed ; but, while a stand- 
ard embroidered pattern was supplied at the Academy 
store, those who wished procured for themselves metal 
anchors, and these not only were of many shapes and sizes, 
but for symmetrical pinning in place demanded an ac- 
curacy of eye and hand which not every one had. The 
result was variegated and fanciful to a degree ; but I doubt 
if any of the officers thought aught amiss. So the regula- 
tion vest buttoned up to the chin, but very many had 
theirs made with rolling collar, to show the shirt. I had a 
handsome, very dandy, Creole classmate, whom an ad- 
miring family kept always well supplied with fancy shirts; 
and I am sure, if precisians of the present day could have 
seen him starting out on a Saturday afternoon to pay his 
visits, with everything just so — except in a regulation 
sense — and not a back hair out of place, they must have 
accepted the results as a testimony to the value of the 
personal factor in uniform. Respect for individual tastes 
was rather a mark of that time in the navy. Seamen handy 
with their needle were permitted, if not encouraged, to em- 
broider elaborate patterns, in divers colors, on the fronts 
of their shirts, and turned many honest pennies by doing 
the like for less skilful shipmates. Pride in personal ap- 
pearance, dandyism, is quite consonant with military feel- 
ing, as history has abundantly shown; and it may be that 

68 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

something has been lost as well as gained in the sup- 
pression of individual action, now when an inspecting of- 
ficer may ahnost be said to carry with him a yard-stick 
and micrometer to detect deviations. 

A very curious manifestation of this disposition to be- 
deck the body was the prevalence of tattooing. If not 
universal, it was very nearly so among seamen of that day. 
Elaborate designs covering the chest, or back, or arms, 
were seen everywhere, when the men were stripped on 
deck for washing. There was no possible inducement to 
this except a crude love of ornament, or a mere imitation 
of a prevailing fashion, which is another manifestation of 
the same propensity. The inconvenience of being branded 
for life should have been felt by men prone to desertion; 
but the descriptive lists which accompany every crew were 
crowded with such remarks as, "Goddess of Liberty, r. f. 
SiJ' — right forearm — the which, if a man ran away, helped 
the police of the port to identify him. My memory does 
not retain the various emblems thus perpetuated in men's 
skins; they were largely patriotic and extremely conven- 
tional, each practised tattooer having doubtless his own 
particular style. Many midshipmen of my time acquired 
these embellishments. I wonder if they have not since 
been sorry. 



IV 

THE NAVAL ACADEMY IN ITS INTERIOR WORKINGS. 

PRACTICE CRUISES 

1855-60 

In the preceding pages my effort has been to reconstitute 
for the reader the navy, in body and in spirit, as it was 
when I entered in 1856 and had been during the period 
immediately preceding. There was no marked change up 
to 1861, when the War of Secession began. The atmos- 
phere and environment which I at first encountered upon 
my entrance to the Naval Academy, in 1856, had nothing 
strange, or even unfamiliar, to a boy who had devoured 
Cooper and Marryat — not as mere tales of adventure, but 
with some real appreciation and understanding of condi- 
tions as by them depicted. I had studied, as well as been 
absorbed by them. Cooper is much more of an idealist 
and romancer than is Marryat, who belongs essentially to 
the realistic school. Some of the Englishman's presenta- 
tions may be exaggerate I, though not beyond probability 
— elaborated would perhaps be a juster word — and in one 
passage he expressly abjures all willingness to present a 
caricature of the seaman he had known. Cooper, on the 
other hand, while his sea scenes are well worked up, has 
given us personalities which, tested by Marryat's, are made 
out of the whole cloth; creations, if you will, but not re- 
semblances. Marryat entered the navy earlier than his 
rival, and followed the sea longer; his experience was in 
every way wider. Even in my time could be seen justifi- 

70 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

cations of his portrayal; but who ever saw the like of Tom 
Coffin, Trysail, or Boltrope? 

The interested curiosity concerning all things naval 
which possessed me, and held me enthralled by the mere 
sight of an occasional square-rigged vessel, such as at rare 
intervals passed our home on the Hudson, fifty miles from 
the sea, led me also to pore over a copy of the Academy 
Regulations which the then superintendent, Captain Louis 
Goldsborough, (afterw^ards Admiral), had sent my father. 
The two had been acquaintances in Paris, in the twenties 
of the century and of their own ages I have always had 
a morbid fondness for registers and time-tables, and over 
them have wasted precious hours; but on this occasion the 
practice saved me a year. I discovered that, contrary to 
the established rule at the Military Academy, an appointee 
to the Naval might enter any class for which he could pass 
the examinations. Further inquiry confirmed this, and I 
set about fitting myself. At that date, even more than at 
present, the standard of admission to the two academies 
had to take into account the very differing facilities for 
education in different parts of the country, as w^ell as the 
strictly democratic method of appointment. This being 
in the gift of the representative of the congressional dis- 
trict, the candidates came from every section; and, being 
selected by the various considerations which influence such 
patronage, the mass of lads who presented themselves 
necessarily differed greatly in acquirements. Hence, to 
enter either Annapolis or West Point only very rudimen- 
tary knowledge was demanded. Having grown up my- 
self so far amid abundant opportunity, and been carefully 
looked after, I found that I was quite prepared to enter the 
class above the lowest, except in one or two minor matters, 
easily picked up. Thus forewarned, I came forearmed. 
There were probably in every class a dozen who could have 
done the same, but they accepted the prevailing custom 

71 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

without question. I believe I was the only one fortunate 
enough to make this gain. In some instances before, and 
in many after, the academic work was for certain classes 
compressed within three years, but I was singular in enter- 
ing a class already of a twelvemonth's standing. 

About my own examination I remember nothing except 
that it was successful; but one incident occurred in 
my hearing which has stuck by me for a half-century. 
One other youth underwent the same tests. He had al- 
ready once entered, two or three years before, and after- 
wards had failed to pass one of the semi-annual tests. 
Such cases frequently were dropped into the next lower 
class, but the rule then was that a second similar lapse was 
final. This had befallen my present associate; but he had 
" influence," which obtained for him another appointment, 
conditional upon passing the requirements for the third 
class, fourth being the lowest. Examinations then were 
oral, not written; and, preoccupied though I was with my 
own difficulties, I could not but catch at times sounds of 
his. He was being questioned in grammar and in pars- 
ing, which I have heard — I do not know whether truly — 
are now looked upon as archaic methods of teaching; and 
the sentence propounded to him was, '^ Mahomet was driven 
from Mecca, but he returned in triumph." His rendering 
of the first words I did not hear, my attention not being 
arrested until "but," which proved to him a truly disjunc- 
tive conjunction. "But!" he ejaculated — "but!" and 
paused. Then came the "practical" leap into the un- 
known. " ^ But' is an adverb, qualifying ' he,' showing what 
he is doing." Poor fellow, it was no joke to him, nor prob- 
ably his fault, but that of circumstances. When released 
from the ordeal, we stood round together, awaiting sen- 
tence. He was in despair, nor could I honestly encourage 
him. "Look at you," he said, "as quiet as if nothing 
had happened" — I was by no means confident that I had 

72 



THE NAVAT. ACADEMY 

cause for elation. ^'If I were as sure that I had passed 
as that you have, I should be skipping all over the place." 
I never heard of him again; but suppose from his name, 
which I remember, and his State, of which I am less sure, 
that he took, and in any event would have taken, the Con- 
federate side in the coming troubles. His loss by this fail- 
ure was therefore probably less than it then seemed. 

An intruder, in breach of well-settled precedent, might 
have expected to be looked on askance by the class which 
I thus unusually entered. Not the faintest indication of 
discontent was ever shown, nor I believe felt, even by those 
over whom I subsequently passed by such standing as I 
established, although the fact meant promotion over them. 
The spirit of the officer and the gentleman, which disdained 
hazing, disdained discourtesy equally, and thrust aside 
with the generosity of youth the jealousy that mature 
years more readily cherishes towards competitors. The 
habit in those days was to distinguish classes, not by the 
year of graduation, but by that of entry — colloquially, 
the so-and-so "Date" — a manner derived from an earlier 
period, when there was no other chronological point of de- 
parture for the career; and in those "days before the flood" 
nothing would have tempted us to depart from a time- 
honored custom. "Dates" frequently established among 
their contemporaries reputations analogous to those of in- 
dividuals. At that time the " '41 Date," then in the prime 
of life, was obnoxious to those below it; not for its own 
fault, but because of its numbers, which, with promotion 
strictly by seniority, constituted a superincumbent mass 
that could not but be regarded bitterly by those who fol- 
lowed. At present there would be the consolation that 
retirement, though distant, would ultimately sweep them 
all away nearly simultaneously; but there was then no 
retired list. Whatever the motive, the Secretary of the 
Navy had been moved to introduce, in 1841, over two 

73 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

hundred midshipmen/ which put an almost total stop to 
appointments for several subsequent years, and gave the 
''Date" the invidious distinction it enjoyed. The well- 
known character in the service whose hoisting a demijohn 
for a flag I have before mentioned, and who found this 
great overplus above him, was credited with saying that 
those of them who did not drink themselves to death 
would strut themselves to death — a comment which testi- 
fied rather to the warmth of his feelings than to the 
merits of the case. Of course, the greater the total, the 
more numerous the unworthy; and the unfortunate nat- 
ural bias of mankind notices these more readily than it 
does the capable. 

The class to which I now found myself admitted was the 
" '55 Date," and whatever their reputation in the service, 
then or thereafter, they thought themselves uncommonly 
fine fellows, distinctly above the average — not perhaps in 
attainments, which was a subsidiary matter, but in tone 
and fellowship. One among them, a turn-back from the 
previous Date, and for two years my room-mate, used to 
declare enthusiastically that he was glad of his misfortune, 
finding himself in so much better a crowd. I doubt if I 
could have gone as far as this, but in the general estimate 
I agreed fully. We numbered then twenty-eight, hav- 
ing started with forty-nine a twelvemonth before. Three 
years later we were graduated, twenty. The dwindling 
numbers testifies rather to the imperfection of educational 
processes throughout the country than to the severity of 
the tests, which were very far below those of to-day. I 
have often heard it said, and believe it true, that the diffi- 
culty was less with the knowledge — that is, the nominal 
acquirements — of the appointees than with the then prev- 
alent methods of study and instruction, which had de- 

*The Navy Register of 1842 shows the number appointed in 1841 to 
have been two hundred and nineteen. 

74 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

bauched the powers of application. My father, after a 
long experience, used to think that upon the whole there 
was better promise in a youth who came with nothing 
more than the three R's, which then constituted substan- 
tially the demands of the Military Academy, than in one 
with a more pretentious showing. The first had not to 
unlearn bad habits. An illustration that the courses were 
not too severe, for an average man beginning with the very 
smallest equipment, is afforded by a true story of the time. 
A larl from one of the Southern States, — Tennessee, I think, 
— ^having obtained an appointment, and being too poor to 
travel otherwise, walked his way to West Point, and then 
failed of admission. The affecting circumstances becom- 
ing known, a number of officers clubbed together and sup- 
ported him for a year at a neighboring excellent school, 
i. He then entered, passed his course successfully, and proved 
a very respectable officer. There was, I believe, nothing 
brilliant in his record, except the earnestness and resolu- 
tion shown; the absence of these, under demands which, 
though not excessive, were rigid, was the principal cause of 
failures. 

The requirements were certainly moderate, and our 
healths needed not to suffer from over-application. The 
marking system of that time gave the numeral 4 as a 
maximum, with which standard 2.5 was a "passing aver- 
age." He who reached that figure, as the combined re- 
sult of his course of recitations and stated examinations, 
passed the test, and went on, or was graduated. The 
recitation marks being posted weekly, we had constant 
knowledge of our chances; and of the necessity of greater 
effort, if in danger, whether of failure or of being out- 
stripped by a competitor. The latter motive was rarely 
evidenced, although I have seen the anxious and worried 
looks of one struggling for pre-eminence over a rival who 
amused himself by merely prodding where he might have 

75 



FKOM SAIL TO STEAM 

surpassed. It is only fair to add, as I also witnessed, that 
no congratulations were more warmly received by the 
victor than those of the man who had so constantly trod 
on his heels. It is needless to say, to those who know the 
world in any sphere of life, that a certain proportion were 
satisfied with merely scraping through. The authorities 
leaned to mercy's side, where there was reasonable promise 
of a man's making a good sea officer. In the later period 
of written examinations an instructor of nmch experience 
said to me, "If a man's paper comes near 2.5, I always 
read it over again with a leaning towards a more favorable 
judgment on points;" and he accompanied the words with 
a gesture which dramatically suggested a leaning so pro- 
nounced that it would certainly topple over the right way. 
Not strictly judicial, I fear, but perhaps practical. There 
were rare instances who played with 2.5, enticed perhaps 
by the mysterious charms of danger. Such a case I heard 
of, a man of unquestioned ability, who it was rumored 
boasted that he would get just above 2.5, and as near as 
he could. He was read dispassionately, and in the event 
came out 2.47. As an effort at approximation, this may 
be considered a success; but for passing it was inadequate, 
and his general character did not bias the final appeal in 
his favor. He was not dropped, indeed, but had to under- 
go a second examination three weeks later : a circumstance 
calculated to cloud his summer. A more amusing instance 
came directly under my observation. He was a candidate 
for entrance, and I then heajii of one of the departments of 
the Academy. Although I had nothing to do with ad- 
missions, his father came in to see me immediately after the 
results were known. He had a marked brogue, and was 
slightly "elevated," by success and by liquor. Placing his 
h'^nd confidentially on my arm, he whispered: "He's got 
in; he's got in." I expressed my sympathy. He drew 
himself up with a smile of exultation, and said: "He only 

76 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

got a 2.7. I said to him, ^ , why didn't you do bet- 
ter than that? — sure you could.' ^Whisht, father/ he re- 
phed, Svhy should I do better, when all I need's a 2.5?' 
Just fancy his thinking of that!" cried the proud parent. 
"The 'cuteness of him!" I forget this lad's further career, 
if I ever knew it. 

One of the distinguishing features of the two academies 
then, and I believe now, was the division of the classes into 
small sections, under several instructors. This gave the 
advantage of very frequent recitations for each student. 
None was safe in counting upon being overlooked on any 
day, and the teacher was kept familiar with the progress 
and promise of every one under his charge. It admitted 
also of a more extensive course for those who could stick 
in the higher sections — a kind of elective, in which the elec- 
tion depended on the teacher, not the taught. Thorough- 
ness of acquisition was favored by this steady pressure, 
the virtue of which lay less in its weight than in its con- 
stancy; but it is practicable only where large resources per- 
mit many tutors to be employed. The Naval Academy has 
had frequent difficulty, not chiefly of a money kind, but 
because the needed naval officers cannot always be spared 
from general service. A sound policy has continuously 
favored the employment of sea officers, where possible; 
not because they can often be equal in acquirement to 
chosen men from the special fields in question, but because 
through them the spirit and authority of the profession 
pervades the class-room as well as the drill-ground, and 
so forwards the highly specialized product in view. Be- 
sides, as I have heard observed with admiration by a very 
able civilian, head of one of the departments, who had 
several officers under him, the habit of turning the hand 
to many different occupations, and of doing in each just 
what was ordered, following directions explicitly, gives na- 
val ofiicers as a class an adaptability and a facility which 

6 77 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

become professional characteristics. It may be interesting 
to note that the same was commonly remarked of the old- 
time seaman. His specialty was everything — ^\"ersatility; 
and he was handy under the least expected circumstances, 
on shore as well as afloat. Burgoyne ased chafhngly to 
attribute his misfortunes at Saratoga to the aptitude with 
which a British midshipman and seamen threw a bridge 
over the upper Hudson. "If it had not been for you/' he 
said to the culprit, "we should never have got as far as 
this." 

In my day the proportion of officers was less than after- 
wards, when the graduates themselves took up the task of 
instruction. There were two who taught us mathematics, 
one of whom remains in my memory as the very best 
teacher, to the extent of hLs knowledge, that I ever knew. 
The professional branches, seamanship and gunnery, fell 
naturally to the sea officers who conducted the drills. 
These studies, as pursued, reflected the transition condition 
of the period which I have before depicted; the grasp on 
the old still was more tenacious than that on the new. The 
preparation of text-books for young seamen far antedated 
the establishment of naval schools. There was one. The 
Sheet Anchor, by Darcy Lever, a British seaman, published 
before 1820, which had great vogue among us. Among 
other virtues, it was illustrated with very taking pictures 
of ships performing manoeuvres in the midst of highly con- 
ventional waves. As far as memory serv^es me, I think 
we were justified in regarding it as more instructive than 
the American work assigned to us by the course, The 
Kedge Anchor, by a master in our navy named Brady. 
A kedge, the unprofessional must know, is a light anchor, 
dropped for a momentary stop, or to haul a ship ahead, 
the title being in so far very consonant to the object of 
instruction; whereas the sheet-anchor is the great and last 
stand-by of a vessel, let go as a final resource after the 

78 



THE NAVAL ACADE:\IY 

two big '^bowers/' which constitute the usual reliance. 
The rareness with which the sheet anchor touched ground 
(the bottom) gave rise to the proverb, " To go ashore with 
the sheet anchor/' as the ultimate expression of attention 
to duty; and the story ran of a British captain, a devoted 
ship-keeper, who, to a lieutenant remonstrating on the 
little privilege of leave enjoyed by the junior officers, 
replied : " Sir, when I and the sheet anchor go ashore, you 
may go with us." By the prescription of our seniors we 
had to tie to The Kedge Anchor, let us hope in the cause of 
progress, to haul us ahead; but in a tight place The Sheet 
Anchor was our recourse, and by it I — ^I think I may say we 
— swore. I always mistrusted The Kedge Anchor after my 
researches into a mysterious sentence — ''A celebrated mas- 
ter, now a commander, in the navy never served the bow- 
sprit rigging all over." In the old-time frigates, of the 
days of Nelson and Hull, the master w^as at the head of 
the marling-spike division of the ship's economy, being, in 
fact, the descendant of the master (captain) of more than 
a century earlier, who managed the ship while soldiers 
commanded and fought her. But the masters were not in 
the line of promotion; in the British navy they rarely rose, 
in our own much more rarely. Who, then, was this cele- 
brated master, now a commander? Eventually I found 
the sentence in a British book, and my faith in the pure 
product of American home industry was suddenly shaken. 
It is only fair to say that books on seamanship, being essen- 
tially an accumulation of facts, must be more or less com- 
pilations. Methods were too well established to allow 
much originality, even of treatment. 

There were many other works of like character, the 
enumeration of which would be tedious. The Young 
Officer^ s Assistant w^as less a specific title than a generic 
description. Several of them were contemporary; and 
one, by a Captain Boyd of the British navy, summed up 

79 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

the convictions of us all, teachers as well as pupils, in the 
sententious aphorism: "It is by no means certain that 
coal whips will outlive tacks and sheets." It is scarcely 
kind to resurrect a prophecy, even when so guarded in ex- 
pression and safely distant in prediction as was this; but I 
fear that for navies tacks and sheets are dead, and coal 
whips very much alive. The wish in those days fathered 
the thought. Who to dumb forgetfulness a prey could vol- 
untarily relinquish all that had been so identified with life 
and thought, nor cast a longing, lingering look behind? 
So we plodded on, acquiring laboriously, yet lovingly, 
knowledge that would have fitted us to pass the examina- 
tions of Basil Hall and Peter Simple. To mention the de- 
tails of cutting and fitting rigging, getting over whole and 
half tops, and other operations yet more recondite, would 
be to involve the unprofessional reader in a maze of in- 
comprehensible terms, and the professional — of that period 
— in familiar recollections. Let me, however, linger lov- 
ingly for ten lines on the knotting — " knotting and splicing," 
as the never-divorced terms ran in the days when rigging 
a topgallant-yard was a constituent part of our curriculum. 
The man who has never viewed the realm of a seaman's 
knots from the outside, and tried to get in, must not flatter 
himself that he fully appreciates the phrase " knotty prob- 
lem." I never got in; a few elementary "bends," a square 
knot, and a bowline, were very near the extent of my man- 
ual acquirements. The last I still retain, and use when- 
ever I make up a bundle for the express; but before 
such mysteries — to me — ^as a Turk's-head and a double- 
wall, I merely bowed in reverence. When handsomely 
turned out, I could recognize the fact; but do them myself, 
no. I remember with humiliation that in 1862, being then 
a young lieutenant, I was called without warning to hear 
a section, one hour, in seamanship. As bad luck would 
have it, the subject happened to be knotting, and there 

80 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

was one of the midshipmen who had made a cruise in a 
merchant-ship. The knots I had to ask about — to which 
that diaboUcal youngster invariably rephed, ''I can't de- 
scribe it, sir, but I will make it for you" — the convolutions 
through which the strands went in his ready fingers, and 
my eyes vainly strove to follow, are a poignant subject. 
There was no room for the time-honored refuge of a puz- 
zled instructor — "We will take up that subject next recita- 
tion;" the confounded boy was ready right along, and I 
had only to be thankful that there were "no questions 
asked." 

There was one professional subject, "Naval Fleet Tac- 
tics" under sail, which at the end of my time shone forth 
with a kind of sunset splendor, the dying dolphin effect 
curiously characteristic of the passing period in which we 
were. This had always had a recognition — d'estime, as the 
French say; but in my final year it fell into the hands of 
a new instructor, who proceeded to glorify it by amplifica- 
tion. He was a very accomplished man in his profession, 
a student of it in all its branches, though there was among 
us a certain understanding that he was not an eminently 
practical seaman; and he eventually lost his life in what 
appeared to me a very unpractical manner, being where 
it did not seem his business to be, and doing work which 
a junior would probably have done better. We remember 
William III. at the battle of the Boyne. "Your majesty, 
the Bishop of Derry has been killed at the ford." "What 
business had he to be at the ford?" was the unsympathetic 
answer. The text-book used by our new instructor was 
by a French lieutenant, written in the thirties of the cen- 
tury, and characterized by something of the peculiar 
French naval genius. The simpler changes of formation 
were so simple that complication could not be got into 
them ; but, that happy stage past^ we went on to evolutions 
of huge masses of ships in three columns, in which the 

81 



FROM SAIL TO STE.AJM 

changes of dispositions, from one order to another, became 
subjects of trigonometrical demonstration, quite as trouble- 
some as Euclid. Sines, cosines, and tangents, of fractional 
angles figured profusely in the processes; and in the result 
courses to be steered would be laid down to an eighth of a 
point, when to keep a single vessel, let alone a column, 
steady within half a point ^ was considered good helms- 
manship. There being no translation of the book, our text 
was provided by copying, individually, from a manuscript 
prepared by our teacher, which increased our labor; but, 
curiously enough, the effect of the whole procedure was so 
to magnify the subject as materially to increase the im- 
pression upon our minds. 

This is really an interesting matter for speculation, as 
to what in effect is practical. The mastery of conclusions, 
to which practical effect never could have been given, 
served to drive home principles which would have come 
usefully into play, had the sail era continued and the United 
States maintained fleets of sailing battle-ships to handle. 
For myself personally, when I came to write naval history, 
long years after, I derived invaluable aid from the prin- 
ciples and the simpler evolutions, thus assimilated and 
remembered. But for them I should often have found 
it difficult to understand what with them was obvious. 
A singular circumstance thus brought out was the want of 
exactness and precision in English terminology in this field. 
The most notable instance that occurs to me was in Nel- 
son's journal on Trafalgar morning, "The enemy wearing 
in succession," when, in fact, as a matter of manoeu\Te, the 
hostile fleet "wore together,'' though the several vessels 
wore "in succession;" a paradox only to be understood at 
a glance by those familiar with fleet tactics under sail. 

* That is, Tdthin a quarter of a point on either side of her course. A 
"point" of the compass is one-eighth of a right angle; e.g., from North 
to East is eight points. 

' 82 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

The usual version of the attack at Trafalgar has of late 
been elaborately disputed by capable critics. I myself 
have no doubt that they are quite mistaken; but it would 
be curious to investigate how far their argimient derives 
from inexact phraseology — as, for example, the definition 
of "column" and "line" applied to ships. 

These mathematical demonstrations of naval evolutions 
might be considered a lapse from practicalness character- 
istic of the particular officer. They took up a good deal 
of valuable time, and on any drill-ground manoeuvres are 
less a matter of geometric precision than of professional 
aptitude and eye judgment. The same mistake could 
scarcely be addressed at that time to the other parts of the 
Academy curriculimi. Either as foundation, or as a super- 
structure in which it was sought to develop professional 
intelligence, to inform and improve professional action, 
there was little to find fault with in detail, and less still 
in general principle. The previous reasonable professional 
prejudice had been in favor of the practical man, the man 
who can do things — who knows how to do them; the new 
effort was to give the "why" of the "how," and to save 
time in the process by giving it systematically. In this 
sense — that all we learned ministered to professional in- 
telligence — the scholastic part was thoroughly professional 
in tone; and I think I have shown that the outside pro- 
fessional sentiment was also strongly felt among us. There 
is always, of course, a disposition latent in educators to 
deny that practical work may be sufficiently accomplished 
by cruder processes — by what we call the rule of thimib — 
and a corresponding inclination to represent that to be 
absolutely necessary which is only an advantage; to ex- 
aggerate the necessity of mastering the "why" in order 
to put the "how" into execution. An instance in point, 
already quoted, is that of the professor who maintained 
that every officer should be able to calculate mathemati- 

83 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

cally the relation between weights and purchases. But 
between 1855 and 1860, if such a tendency existed in germ, 
it had no effect in practice. As I look back, the relation 
between what we were taught and what we were to do 
was neither remote nor indirect. In its own sphere, in 
both its merits and its faults, the Academy was in aspira- 
tion as professional as the outside service. 

This means that the Academy constituted for us an 
atmosphere perfectly accordant with the life for which we 
were intended; and ai educational institution has no edu- 
cative function to discharge higher than this. This in- 
fluence was enhanced by the social customs, in favor of 
which disciplinary exactions were relaxed to the utmost 
possible ; herein departing from the practice at the Military 
Academy, as then known to me. Not only on Saturdays 
and holidays, but every day, and at all hours not positively 
allotted to study or drills, the midshipmen might visit the 
houses of officers or professors to which they had the en- 
trance. As a rule, very properly, no one was allowed to 
be absent from mess; but permission could always be ob- 
tained to accept an invit tion to the evening meal with 
any of the families. This freedom of intercourse contrib- 
uted its share to the -formation of professional tone, for 
the heads of the families were selected professional men, 
who were thus met on terms of intimacy, precluded else- 
where by the official relations of the parties. More train- 
ing is imparted by such association than by teaching — the 
familiar contrast of example and precept. An even great- 
er gain, however — and a strictly professional gain, too — 
was the social facility thus acquired. In all callings prob- 
ably, certainly in the navy, social aptitude is profession- 
ally valuable. Nelson's dictum that naval officers should 
know how to dance was only one way of saying that they 
should be men of affairs, at home in all conditions where 
men— or women — gather for business or amusement. The 

84 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

phrase " all sorts and conditioas of men " never had wider 
or juster application than to the assembly of green lads, 
from every variety of parentage and previous surroundings, 
pitchforked into Annapolis once every year; and, of all the 
humanizing and harmonizing influences under which they 
came, none exceeded that of the quiet gentlefolk, of mod- 
est meaas, with whom they mingled thus freely. Indeed, 
one of the most astute of our superintendents took into 
account the family of an officer before asking that he be 
ordered. 

An element in our social environment which should not 
be omitted was the prevalence of a Southern flavor. In 
our microcosm, this reflected the general sentiment of the 
world outside, then slowly freeing itself from the spirit of 
compromise which had dominated the statesmanship of two 
generations in their efforts to reconcile the incompatible. 
There were certainly strong Northern men in plenty, as 
well as strong Southerners; but every Southerner was con- 
VLDced that the justice was all on their side, that their rights 
as well as interests were being attacked, whereas the North- 
erners were divided in feeling. There were some pro- 
nounced abolitionists, here and there, prepared to go all 
party lengths; but in the majority from the North, the de- 
votion to the Union, which rose so instantaneoasly to 
the warlike pitch when fairly challenged, for the present 
counselled concession to the utmost hmit, if only thereby 
the Union might endure. In this the membership of the 
school reproduced the political character of the Hoase of 
Representatives, with whom appointment rested; and at 
our age, of course, we simply re-echoed the tones of our 
homes. Never in my now long Hfe have I seen so evident 
the power of conviction as in the Southern men I then 
knew. They simply had no hesitations; whereas we others 
were perplexed. Yet I now doubt whether the Southern 
con\'iction was not really, if imconsciously, the resolution 

85 



FROM SAIL TO STE.A3I 

of despair; of doom felt, though unacknowledged; not be- 
fore the attacks of the North, but before the resistless prog- 
ress of the world, of which the North was to be the instru- 
ment. So also the patience of the North, if so noble a 
word can be conceded to our long temporizing, was an 
unconscious manifestation of latent power. To those who 
knew what the Union meant to those who exalted it — 
should I not rather say her? — in passionate adoration, need 
never have doubted what the response would be, if threat 
passed into act and hands were lifted against her. Con- 
viction was absolute and deep-rooted on that side as on the 
other; but it was less on the surface, and sought ever a 
solution of peace. 

The Muse of History of late years has become so analytic, 
and withal so embarrassed with the accumulations of new 
material, revealing still more the complication of causes 
which undoubtedly concur to any general result, that she 
is prone to overlook the overpowering influence of the sim- 
ple elemental passions of human nature. "Our country, 
right or wrong," may be very bad morality, but it is a 
tremendous force to reckon with. One is wise overmuch 
who thinks that interest can restrain or statesmen control; 
wise unto folly who ignores that disinterested emotion, even 
unreasoning, may be just the one factor which diplomacy 
cannot master. I was in Rome when our late troubles 
with Spain came on, and dined with a number of the diplo- 
matic body. " Oh yes," said to me one of these illuminati, 
" it is all very well to talk about humanity. The truth is, 
the United States wants Cuba." More profound was the 
remark of an American politician, who had recently visited 
the island. " I did not dare to tell all I saw; for, if I had, 
there would be no holding our people back." Personally, 
I believed that the interests of the United States made ex- 
pedient the acquisition of Cuba, if righteously accomplished, 
and prior to the war I knew little of the conditions on the 

86 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

island ; but Cuba would be Spanish now, if interests chiefly 
had power to move us. So in the War of Secession. In- 
numerable precedent occurrences had produced a condi- 
tion, but it was the passion for the Union, the strong loyalty 
to that sovereign, which dominated the situation, and in 
truth had been dominating it silently for years; a passion as 
profound and, though justifiable to reason, as unreasoning 
as any simple love that ever bound man to woman. Could 
this have been appreciated, what reams of demonstration 
might have been spared to foreign pens — demonstration of 
the folly, the hopelessness, the lust of conquest, the self- 
interest in myriad forms, which were supposed to be the 
actuating causes. 

Effectively, the South had lost this love of the Union. 
In this respect the two sections, I fancy, had parted com- 
pany, unwittingly, soon after the War of 1812; through 
which, as we all well know, in many quarters sectional feel- 
ing had still prevailed over national. The North had since 
moved towards national consciousness, the South towards 
sectional, on paths steadily and rapidly diverging. As I 
recall those days, when I first awoke to political observa- 
tion, I should say that the feeling of my Southern associates 
towards the Union was that which men have towards a 
friend lately buried. Affection had not wholly disappeared ; 
but life called. Let the dead bury their dead. I remem- 
ber on my first practice cruise, in 1857, standing in the 
main-top of the ship with a member of the class immediate- 
ly before mine, the son of a North Carolina member of Con- 
gress. "Yes," he said to me, "Buchanan [inaugurated 
four months before] will be the last President of the United 
States." He was entirely unmoved, simply repeating cer- 
titudes to which familiarity had reconciled him; I, to 
whom such talk was new, as much aghast as though I had 
been told my mother would die within the like term. 
This outlook was common to them all. The Union still 

87 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

was, and they continued in it; but to them the warn- 
ing had sounded, they were ready and acquiescent in its 
fall; regretful, but resigned — ^very much resigned. This 
attitude was more marked among the younger men, those 
at the school. In the service outside I found somewhat 
the same point of view, but repulsion was keener. The 
navy then, even more than now, symbolized the exterior 
activities of the country, which are committed by the Con- 
stitution to the Union. Hence, the life of the profession 
naturally nurtured pride in the nation; and while States'- 
Rights had undermined the principle of loyalty to the 
Union, it had been less successful in destroying love for 
it. But to most the prospect was gloomy. That Massa- 
chusetts and South Carolina should be put into a pen to- 
gether, and left to fight it out, was the solution expressed 
to me by a lieutenant who afterwards fell nobly, in com- 
mand, on a Union deck in the war; the gallant Joe Smith, 
concerning whom runs a story that cannot be too widely 
known, even though often repeated. When it was report- 
ed to his father that the Congress had surrendered, he said, 
simply, "Then Joe's dead.'' Joe was dead; but it is only 
fair to the survivors to say that ninety out of her crew of 
four hundred were also dead, the ship aground, helpless, 
and in flames. 

In Annapolis, the capital of a border slave state, the 
general sentiment was, as might be expected, a blending 
of North and South; a desire to maintain the Union, but, 
distinctly superior in motive, sympathy with the Southern 
view of the case. In all my fairly intimate acquaintance 
with the small society of the town outside the Academy 
walls, there was but one family the heads of which were 
decisively Union — not Northern; and of it two sons fought 
in the Southern armies. Between this influence and that 
of my comrades I remained as I had been brought up — the 
Union first and above all, but with the conviction that 

88 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

the great danger to the Union lay in the aboUtion prop- 
aganda. My father was by upbringing a Virginian; by 
Hfe-long occupation an officer of the general government, 
imbued to the marrow with the principles of military 
loyalty. Having married and continuously lived in the 
North, he had escaped all taint of the extreme States' -Rights 
school; but the memories of his youth kept him broadly 
Southern in feeling, less by local attachment than by affec- 
tion for friends. More than twenty years after his death, 
when I was on court-martial duty in Richmond, an old 
Confederate general, whom I had never seen, sought me 
out in memory of the ties that had bound both himself 
and his wife's family to my father. With these clinging 
sympathies, the abolition agitation was an attack upon 
his friends, and, still worse, a wanton endangering of the 
Union. To save me from being carried away by the swell- 
ing tide was one of his chief aims. 

Regarded by themselves, nothing can well be less im- 
portant than the political opinions of one boy of eighteen 
to twenty; but few things are more important, if they are 
those of the mass of his generation, for then they are the 
echo from many homes. I believe, from what I saw at the 
Naval Academy, that mine were those of the large ma- 
jority of the Northern youth, and that the very greatness 
of the concession which such were ready to make for the 
sake of the Union should have warned the disunionists 
that the same love was capable of equally great sacrifices 
in the other direction. They failed so to understand; 
chiefly, perhaps, because they could not appreciate the 
living force of the simple sentiment. Never in their life- 
times, if ever before, had the Union held the first place in 
the hearts of men of their section; and such love as had 
been felt was already moribund, overcome by supposed in- 
terest and local pride. Thus misled, it was easy to believe 
that in the North, controlled by considerations of advan- 

89 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

tage, yielding would follow yielding, even to permitting a 
disruption of the Union — a miscalculation of forces more 
fatal even than that of "Cotton is King." But forces 
will often be miscalculated by those who reckon interest 
as more powerful than principle or than sentiment. 

Singularly enough, considering the exodus of States'- 
Rights officers from the navy at the outbreak of the War 
of Secession, my first service during it brought me into 
close relations 'with two captains, both Southerners, whose 
differing points of view shed interesting light upon the 
varying motives which in times of stress determined men 
into a common path. The first, Percival Drayton, a South- 
Carolinian, had a strength of conviction on the question of 
slavery, in itself, and the wrong-headed course of the slave 
power, as well as a strong devotion to the Union, all which 
were needed to keep a son of that extreme state firm in his 
allegiance. I question, however, whether any other one of 
the seceding communities furnished as large a proportion of 
officers who stuck to the national flag, chiefly among the 
older men; a result scarcely surprising, for the intensity of 
affection for the Union necessary to withstand nearest rel- 
atives and the headlong sweep of separatist impulse, where 
fiercest, naturally throve upon the opposition which it met, 
eliciting a corresponding tenacity of adherence to the cause 
it had embraced. No more than that other Southerner, 
Farragut, did Drayton feel doubt as to where he belonged 
in the coming struggle. "I cannot exactly see the differ- 
ence between my relations fighting against me and I against 
them, except that their cause is as unholy a one as the 
world has ever seen, and mine just the reverse.'' ^'Were the 
sword in the one hand powerful enough, the secessionists 
would carry slavery with the other to the uttermost parts 
of the Union, and I do not think the North has been at 
all too quick in stopping the movement." "I do not think 
there will ever be peace between the tw^o sections until 

90 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

slavery is so completely scotched as to make extension a 
hopeless matter." ^ 

Drayton stayed with us but a brief time. His successor, 
George B. Balch, who still survives, now the senior rear- 
admiral on the retired list of the navy, a man beloved by 
all who have known him for his gallantry, benevolence, and 
piety, was equally pronounced and equally firm; but his 
position illustrated and carried on my experiences at the 
Academy, and afterwards in the service, and for the time 
confirmed my old prepossessions. He was fighting for the 
Union, assailed without just cause; not against slavery, 
nor for its abolition. Were the latter the motive of the 
war, he would not be in arms. This, of course, was then 
the attitude of the government and of the people at large. 
Abolition, which came not long after, was a w^ar measure 
simply; received with doubt by many, but which a few 
months of hostilities had prepared us all to accept. My 
own conversion was early and sudden. The ship had made 
an expedition of some fifty miles up a South Carolina river, 
in the course of which numerous negroes fled to her. Un- 
like Drayton, our captain was rather disconcerted, I think, 
at having forced upon him a kind of practical abolition, 
in carrying off slaves; but his duty was clear. As for me, 
it was my first meeting with slavery, except in the house- 
servants of Maryland, superficially a very different condi- 
tion; and as I looked at the cowed, imbruted faces of the 
field-hands, my early training fell away like a cloak. The 
process was not logical; I was generahzing from a few in- 
stances, but I was convinced. Knowing how strongly my 
father had felt, I wondered how I should break to him my 
instability; but when we met I found that he, too, had gone 
over. Youngster as I still was, I should have divined the 
truth, that in assailing the Union his best friend became 

^ Naval Letters of Captain Percival Drayton. Edited by Miss Ger- 
trude L. Hoyt. 1906. Pages 10, 3, 4. 

91 



FROM SAIL TO STEA.A1 

his enemy, to down whom abohtion was good and fit as 
any other club. "My son," he said, "I did not think I 
could ever again be happy should our country fall into 
her present state; but now I am so absorbed in seeing 
those fellows beaten that I lose sight of the rest." Peculiar 
and personal association enhanced his interest; for, having 
been then over thirty years at the Military Academy, there 
were very few of the prominent generals on either side 
who had not been his pupils. The successful leaders were 
almost all from that school: Grant, Sherman, Thomas, 
Schofield, on the Union side; Lee, Jackson, and the two 
Johnstons on the Confederate, were all graduates, not to 
mention a host of others only less conspicuous. 

In last analysis slavery may have been, probably was, 
the cause of the war; but, historically, it was not the 
motive. Lincoln's words — "I will save the Union with 
slavery, or I will save it without slavery, as the case may 
demand" — voiced the feeling prevalent in the military ser- 
vices, and also the will of the great body of the Northern 
people, whom he profoundly understood and in his own 
mental advance illustrated. I cannot but think that such 
an aim was more statesmanlike than would have been the 
attempt to overturn immediately and violently an entire 
social and economical system, for the establishment of which 
the current generation was not responsible. In the long 
run, to allow the tares of bondage to stand w^ith the wheat 
of freedom was wiser than the wish prematurely to uproot. 
It had become the definite policy of the enemies of slavery 
to girdle the tree, by strict encompassing lines, leaving it 
to consequent sure process of decay. Its friends forced 
the issue. To the ones and to the others the harvest of 
generations, in the form it took, came unexpected and 
suddenly — a day of judgment, a crisis, like a thief in the 
night. It is a consummate proof of the accuracy of popu- 
lar instinct, given time to work, that the uprising of 1861 

92 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

rested upon recognition of the fact that the cause of the 
nation and of the world depended more upon the* preser- 
vation of a single authority over all the territory in- 
volved, upon the consequent avoidance of future perma- 
nent oppositions, than it did upon the destruction of a 
particular institution, the life of which might be pro- 
tracted, but under conditions of union must wane and 
ultimately expire. The gradual progress of decision by the 
American people was wiser than the abrupt action asked 
by foreign impatience; and abolition came with less shock 
and more finality as a military measure than it could as 
a political. Its advisability was more evident. If states- 
manship is shown in bringing popular will to accord with 
national necessity, Lincoln was in this most sagacious ; but 
not the least element in the tribute due him is that he was 
the barometer of popular impulse, measuring accurately 
the invisible force upon which depended the energy of 
that stormy period. 

Before taking final leave of my shore experiences at the 
Naval Academy, I will recall, as among them, the superb 
comet of the autunm of 1858, which we at the school wit- 
nessed evening after evening in October of that year, dur- 
ing the release from quarters following supper. After the 
lapse of so nearly a half-century, the survivors of those 
who saw that magnificent spectacle must be in a minority 
among their contemporaries, whether of that day or this. 
Since its disappearance there has been visible one other 
notable comet, which I remember waking my children after 
midnight to see; but compared with that of 1858, whether 
in size or in splendor, it was literally as moonlight unto sun- 
light, or, in impression, as water unto wine. As the as- 
tronomers compute the period of return for the earlier at 
two thousand years, more or less, we of that generation 
were truly singular in our opportunity of viewing this, 
among the very few "most magnificent of modern times." 

^ 93 



FROM SAIL TO STEAIVI 

The tail, broadening towards the end, with a curve like 
that of a scimitar, was in length nearly a fourth of the span 
of the heavens, and its brightness that of a full moon. My 
memory retains the image with all the tenacity of eighteen. 

Corresponding in some measure to the summer encamp- 
ment at the Military Academy, the Naval gave the three 
months from July to September, inclusive, to shipboard and 
the sea. In both institutions the period was one of study 
interrupted, in favor of out-door work ; but at West Point it 
was accompanied by a degree of social entertainment im- 
possible to ship conditions. There were two theories as to 
the conduct of the practice cruises. One was that they 
should be confined to home waters, where regular hours 
and systematized instruction in "doing things" would suf- 
fer little interference from weather; the other was to make 
long voyages, preferably to Europe, leaving to the normal 
variability of the ocean and the watchful improvement of 
occasions the burden of initiating a youth into practical 
acquaintance with the exigencies of his intended profes- 
sion. Personally I have always favored the latter, being 
somewhat of the opinion of the old practical politician — 
''Never contrive an opportunity." NatiKally an opportu- 
nist, the experience of life has justified me in rather awaiting 
than contriving occasions. One learns more widely and 
more thoroughly by reefing topsails when it has to be done, 
than by doing it at a routine hour, without the accompani- 
ments of the wind, the wet, and the lurching, which give 
the operation a tone and a tonic — the real thing, in short. 
Doubtless we may wait too long, like Micawber, even for 
a reef-topsail gale to turn up, though the ocean can usually 
be trusted to be nasty often enough ; but, on the other hand, 
one over sedulously bent on making opportunity is apt to 
be too preoccupied to see that which makes itself. Truth, 
doubtless, lies between the extremes. 

94 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

In my clay long cruises had unquestioned preference; 
and, whatever their demerits otherwise, they were certainly 
eye-openers, even to those who, like myself, had obtained 
some intelHgent impression of ships at sea. As instruction 
in seamanship was then never attempted, neither by work 
nor book, imtil after the second year, we went on board not 
knowing one mast from another, so far as teaching went. 
How far initial ignorance could go may be illustrated by 
an incident, to be appreciated, unluckily, only by seamen, 
which happened in my hearing. We had then been nearly 
two months on board, when one who had improved his op- 
portunities was displaying his acquirements by the pleas- 
ing method of catechising another. He asked: "Do you 
know what the topsail- tie is?'' The rejoinder, perfectly 
serious, was: "Do you mean the cross-tie?" The topsail- 
tie being one of the principal "ropes" in a ship, the igno- 
rance was really symptomatic of character ; and had not the 
hero of it been long dead, I would not have preserved it, 
even incog. I fear it may be cited against my view of 
practice cruises, as proving that systematic training is 
better than picking-up; to which my reply would be that 
the picking-up showed aptitude — or the reverse — if only 
some means could be devised of making it tell in selection, 
as it assuredly did in character. But at the beginning, de- 
spite any little previous inklings, we were all quite green. 
I still recall the innocent astonishment when we anchored 
in Hampton Roads, after the run down the Chesapeake, 
and the boatswain, as by custom, pulled round the ship to 
see the yards square and rigging taut. Semaphore signal- 
ling was not then used, as later; and his stentorian lungs 
conveyed to us distinct sounds, bearing meanings we felt 
could never be compassed by us. "Haul taut the main- 
top bowlines!" "Haul taut the starboard fore- topgallant- 
sheet." "Maintop, there! Send a hand up and square the 
bunt gaskets of the topgallant- sail!" "By Jove!" said 

95 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

one of the admiring listeners, " there's seamanship for you!'^ 
We all silently agreed, and I dare say many thought we 
might as well give it up and go home. Such excellence 
was not for us. 

The subsequent process of picking-up was attended some- 
times by comical, as well as painful, incidents. Peter 
Simple's experiences, as told by Marryat, were not yet 
quite obsolete in practice. A story ran of one, not long 
before my "date," who, having been sent on two or three 
bootless errands by unauthorized jesters, finally received 
from a person in due authority the absurd-sounding, but 
legitimate, message to have the jackasses put in the hawse- 
holes.* "Oh no," he replied, resentfully, "I have been 
fooled often enough! That I will not do." I can better 
vouch for another, which happened on my first practice 
cruise. In a sailing-ship properly planned, the balance of 
the sails is such that to steer her on her course the rudder 
need not be kept more to one side than the other; the helm 
is then amidships. But error of design, or circumstances, 
such as a faulty trim of the sails or the ship inclining in a 
strong side-wind, will sometimes so alter the influencing 
forces that the helm has to be carried steadily on one side, 
to correct the ship's disposition to turn to that side. She 
is then said to carry weather helm or lee helm, as the case 
may be; and the knowing ones used to assert noticeable 
differences of sailing in certain conditions. In many ships to 
carry a little weather helm was thought advantageous, and 
it was told of a certain deck-officer — he who repeated the 
story to me made the late Admiral Porter the hero — that 
the ship being found to sail faster in his watch than in any 
other, the commander sent for him and asked the reason. 

^ The anchoring chains pass from inboard through the hawse-holes 
to the anchor. When left bent on soundings, the sea, if rough, will rush 
through them copiously. To prevent this in part, conical stuffed can- 
vas bags were dragged in from outside. These were called " jackasses." 

96 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

"Well, sir/' replied the lieutenant, "I will tell you my 
secret. As soon as the gfficer I relieve is gone below and 
out of sight, while the watch is mustering, I walk forward, 
look round at things generally, and say casually to the 
captain of the forecastle : ' Just slack off a little of this jib- 
sheet/ Then about ten minutes before eight bells, after 
the last log of the watch has been hove, while the men 
are rousing to go below, I go forward again and say, ^ Come 
here, half a dozen of us, and get a pull of the jib-sheet;' 
and I turn the deck over to my rehef with the jib well 
flattened in." In result, the frigate during his watch, and 
his only, carried a weather helm. My own experience 
of sailing ships was neither prolonged enough nor respon- 
sible enough to estimate just what weight to attach to 
these impressions, but they existed; and in any case, as 
the helm varying far from amidships showed something 
wrong, the question was frequent to the helmsman, " How 
does she carry her helm?" varied sometimes to, "What sort 
of helm does she carry?" Now we had among our green 
midshipmen one from the West, tall, angular, swarthy, with 
a coal-black eye which had a trick of cocking up and out, 
giving a queer, perplexed, yet defiant cast to his counte- 
nance; moreover, he stuttered a little, not from imperfec- 
tion of organs, but from nervous excitability. We had also 
a lieutenant from far down East, red-haired, sanguine of 
complexion, bony of structure, who had a gesture of tossing 
his hair and head back, and looking tremendously leonine 
and master of the situation — monarch of all he surveyed. 
The two were naturally antagonistic, as was amusingly 
shown more than once ; but on this occasion the midshipman 
was at the "lee wheel," not himself steering, but helping 
the steersman in the manual labor. To him the lieutenant, 
pausing in his stride and tilting his chin in the air, says: 

"Mr. . , what sort of helm does she carry?" , 

who had never heard of weather or lee helms, and probably 

97 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

was not yet recovered from the effects of the boatswain's 
seamanship, twisted his eye and his head, looking more than 
ever confounded and saucy, and stammered: "I — I — I'm 
not sure, sir, but I think it's a wooden one." Tableau! — as 
the French say. 

In position on board we were midship-men indeed, in a 
sense probably somewhat different from that which first 
gave birth to the title. We were not seamen; and it could 
scarcely be claimed that we were in any full sense officers, 
much as we stuck to that designation. We stood midway. 
There was a tradition in the British service that a midship- 
man, though in training for promotion, did not, while in the 
grade, rank with the boatswain or gunner, who had no fut- 
ure prospects, and who, with the carpenter, stood in a class 
by themselves. Marry at, who doubtless drew his characters 
from fife, tells us that the gunner who sailed with Mr. Mid- 
shipman Easy was strong on the necessity for the gunner 
mastering navigation, and had many instances in point 
where all the officers had been killed dowm to the gunner, 
who in such case would have been sadly handicapped by 
ignorance of navigation. I fancy the doubt seldom needed 
to be settled in service ; the duties of midshipman and boat- 
swain could rarely come into collision, if each minded his 
own business. By luck, just after writing these words, I 
for the first time in my life have found a plausible deriva- 
tion for midshipman.^ It w^ould appear that in the days 
immediately after the flood the vessels were very high at 
the two ends, between which there was a deep "waist," 
giving no ready means of passing from one to the other. 

* Acknowledgment is here due to Mr. Thomas G. Ford, once a pro- 
fessor at the Naval Academy, cordially remembered by the midship- 
men who knew him there in the fifties. His article is in the issue of 
the Naval Institute Proceedings for June, 1906, which has just reached 
me. He attributes his information to the late Admiral Preble, almost 
the only American officer within my time who has had the instincts of 



an archaeologist. 



98 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

To meet this difficulty there were employed a class of men, 
usually young and alert, who from their station w^ere called 
midship-men, to carry messages which were not subject 
for the trumpet shout. If this holds water, it, like fore- 
castle, and after-guard, and knight-heads, gives another 
instance of survival from conditions which have long ceased. 
Whatever the origin of his title, it well expressed the 
anomalous and undefined position of the midshipman. He 
belonged, so to say, to both ends of the ship, as well as to 
the middle, and his duties and privileges alike fell within 
the broad saying, already quoted, that what was nobody's 
business was a midshipman's. When appointed as such, 
in later days, he came in "with the hay-seed in his hair,'' 
and went out fit for a lieutenant's charge ; but from first to 
last, whatever his personal progress, he remained, as a mid- 
shipman, a handy-billy. He might be told, as Basil Hall's 
first captain did his midshipmen, that they might keep 
watch or not, as they pleased — that is, that the ship had no 
use for them; or he might be sent in charge of a prize, as 
was Farragut, when twelve years old, doubtless with an 
old seaman as nurse, but still in full command. Anywhere 
from the bottom of the hold to the truck — top of tlie masts 
— he could be sent, and was sent; every boat that went 
ashore had a midshipman, who must answer for her safety 
and see that none got away of a dozen men, whose one 
thought was to jump the boat and have a run on shore. 
Between times he passed hours at the masthead in expia- 
tion of faults which he had committed — or ought to have 
committed, to afford a just scapegoat for his senior's wrath. 
As Marryat said, it made little difference : if he did not think 
of something he had not been told, he was asked what his 
head was for ; if he did something off his own bat, the ques- 
tion arose what business he had to think. In either case 
he went to the masthead. Of course, at a certain age one 
"turns to mirth all things of earth, as only boyhood can;" 

99 



FROM SAIL TO STE.A3I 

and the contemporary records of the steerage brmi over 
with unforced jollity, like that notable hero of Mairyat's 

" who was never quite happy except when he was d d 

miserable." 

Such undefined standing and emplojinents taught men 
their business, but provided no remedy for the miscellane- 
ous social origin of midshipmen. In the beginning of things 
they were probably selected from the smart young men of 
the crew; often also from the more middle-aged — in any 
event, from before the mast. Even in much later days men 
passed backward and for^'ard from midshipman to lower 
ratings; Nelson is an instance in point. When a man be- 
came a lieutenant, he was something fixed and recognized, 
professionally and socially. He might fall below his sta- 
tion, but he had had his chance. In the British navy many 
most distinguished officers came from anywhere — through 
the hawse-holes, as the expression ran; and a proud boast 
it should have been at a time when every Frenchman in 
his position had to be of noble blood. What was all very 
well for captains and lieutenants, once those ranks were 
reached, was not so easy for midshipmen. We know in 
every walk of life the woes of those whose position is doubt- 
ful or challenged; and what w^as said to his crew by Sir 
Peter Parker, an active frigate captain who was killed in 
Chesapeake Bay in 1814, " I'll have you touch your hat to 
a midsliipman's jacket hung up to dry" (curiously rem- 
iniscent of WiUiam Tell and Gessler's cap), not improba- 
bly testifies to equivocalness even at that late date. The 
social instinct of seamen is singularly observant and tena- 
cious of their officers' manners and bearing. I have known 
one, reproved for a disrespect, say, sullenly : " I have always 
been accustomed to sail with gentlemen." In the instance 
the comment was just, though not permissible. Deference 
might be conceded to the midshipman's jacket, but it 
could not cover defects of a certain order. 

100 



THE NAVAL ACADEMY 

The midshipman's berth, as attested by contemporary 
sketches, was peopled by all sorts in age, fitness, and 
manners. In one of the many tales I devoured in youth, a 
middle-aged shellback of a master's mate, come in from 
before the mast, says with an oath to an aristocratic 
midshipman: "Isn't my blood as red as yours?" Still, 
even in the British navy, with its fine democratic record, 
the social rank was more regarded than the military. His 
Majesty's ship So-and-So was commanded by John Smith, 
Esquire ; and I have heard this point of view stated by 
competent authority as accounting for the address — George 
Washington, Esquire — placed by Howe on the letter which 
Washington refused to accept because not carrying the 
rank conferred on him by Congress. This does not, how- 
ever, explain away the "etc., etc.," which followed on the 
cover. John Byng, Esquire, Admiral of the Blue, woukl 
thus be of higher consideration as Esquire than as Ad- 
miral. Even in our own service I remember an old log, 
the pages of which were headed, ^ bruise of the U. S. Ship 
Preble, commanded by J. B. M , Esquire.'^ 

In the practice cruises the social question did not arise. 
Independent of the democratic tendency of all boys' schools, 
where each individual finds his level by natural gravitation, 
the Naval Academy, for reasons before alluded to, has been 
remarkably successful in assimilating its heterogeneous raw 
material and turning out a finished product of a good aver- 
age social quality. Beyond this, social success or failure 
depends everywhere upon personal aptitudes which no 
training can bestow. But as officers we were nondescript. 
There were too many of us; and for the most the object was 
to acquire a sufficient seaman's knowledge, not an officer's. 
Yet, curiously enough, so at least it seemed to me, there 
was a disposition on the part of some to be jealous of any 
supposed infringement of our prerogative to be treated as 
"a bit of an officer." Ashore or afloat, we made our own 

101 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

beds or lashed our own hammocks, swept our rooms, tend- 
ed our clothes, and blacked our boots; our drills were those 
of the men before the mast, at sails and gims; all parts of 
a seaman's work, except cleaning the ship, was required and 
willingly done; but there was a comical rebellion on one 
occasion when ordered to pull — row — a boat ashore for some 
purpose, and almost a mutiny when one lieutenant directed 
us to go barefooted while decks were being scrubbed, a 
practice w^hich, besides saving your shoe-leather, is both 
healthy, cleanly, and, in warm weather, exceedingly com- 
forting. Some asserted that the lieutenant in question, 
who afterwards commanded one of the Confederate com- 
merce-destroyers, and from his initials (Jas. I.) was known 
to us as Jasseye, had done this because he had very pretty 
feet which he liked to show bare, and we must do the 
same; much as Germans are said to train their mustaches 
with the emperor's. At all events, there was great wTath, 
which I supposed I should have shared had I not preferred 
bare feet — not for as sound reasons as the lieutenant's. It 
stands to reason, however, that that imputation was slan- 
derous, for there were no appreciative observers, imless him- 
self. Why waste such sweetness on the desert air of a 
lot of heedless midshipmen? With so many details regu- 
lated — if not enforced — from the length of our hair to the 
cut of our trousers, it did seem hypercritical to object to 
going shoeless for an hour. But who is consistent? The 
uncertainty of our position kept the chip on the shoulder. 



V 

MY FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION— NAUTICAL 

CHARACTERS 

1859-1861 

At the moment of graduation, in the summer of 1859, I 
had a narrow escape from the cutting short of my career, 
resembling that which a man has from a railway accident 
by missing the train. To a certain extent the members 
of classes were favored in forming groups of friends, and 
choosing the ship to which they would be sent. Myself 
and two intimates applied for the sloop-of-war Levant, 
destined for the Pacific by way of Cape Horn ; our motive 
being partly the kind of vessel, supposed by us to favor pro- 
fessional opportunity, and partly the friendship existing 
between one of us and the master of the Levant, a graduate 
of two or three years before, who had just completed his 
examinations for promotion. Luckily for us, and particu- 
larly for me, as the only one of the three who in after life 
survived middle age, the frigate Congress was fitting out, 
and her requirements for officers could not be disregarded. 
The Levant sailed, reached the Pacific, and disappeared — 
one of the mysteries of the deep. We very young men 
had the impression that small vessels were better calculated 
to advance us professionally, because, having fewer offi- 
cers, deck duty might be devolved on us, either to ease the 
regular watch officers or in case of a disability. This pre- 
possession extended particularly to brigs, of which the 
navy then had several. This was a pretty wild imagin- 

103 



FROM SAIL TO STEAiM 

ing, for I can hardly conceive any one intrusting such a 
vessel to a raw midshipman. It is scarcely an exaggera- 
tion to say they were all canvas and no hull — beautiful as 
a dream, but dangerous to a degree, except to the skilful. 
As it was, an unusual proportion of them came to grief. 
Our views were doubtless largely, if unconsciously, affected 
by the pleasing idea of prospective early importance as 
deck officers. The more solid opinion of our seniors was 
that we would do better to pause awhile on the bottom 
step, under closer supervision ; while as for vessel, the order, 
dignity, and scale of performance on big ships were more 
educative, more formative of military character, which, 
and not seamanship, is the leading element of professional 
value. "Keep them at sea,'^ said Lord St. Vincent, "and 
they can't help becoming seamen; but attention is needed 
to make them learn their business with the guns." I have 
already mentioned that, at the outbreak of the War of 
Secession, it was this factor which decided the authorities 
to give seniority to the very young lieutenants over the 
volunteers from the merchant service, most of whom had 
longer experience and (though by no means all of them) 
consequent abihty as seamen. 

After graduating, my first cruise was upon what was then 
known as the Brazil Station; by the British called more 
comprehensively the Southeast Coast of America. After 
the war the name and limits were judiciously changed. It 
became then the South Atlantic Station, to embrace the 
Cape of Good Hope, and, generally, the coasts of South 
America and Africa, with the islands lying between, such 
as St. Helena and the Falklands. From the point of view 
of healthy activity for the ships and their companies, and 
specifically for the education of younger officers, this ex- 
tension was most desirable. In the earlier time long peri- 
ods were spent in port, because there really was not enough 
that required doing. Our captain once kept the ship at 

104 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

sea for a fortnight or more, "cruising;'' that is, moving 
about within certain hmits back and forth. In war-time 
this is frequent, if not general; but then it is for a specific 
purpose, conducive to the ends of war. In peace, cruising 
ends in itself; it is like a "constitutional;" beneficial, no 
doubt, but not to most men as healthily beneficial as the 
walk to the office, with its definite object and the incidental 
amusement of the streets. A terminus ad quern is essential 
to the perfection of exercise, bodily or mental. As it was, 
Montevideo, in the river La Plata, and Rio de Janeiro were 
the two chief ports between which we oscillated, with rare 
and brief stays elsewhere or at sea. 

The Congress was a magnificent ship of her period. The 
adjective is not too strong. Having been built about 1840, 
she represented the culmination of the sail era, which, 
judged by her, reached then the splendid maturity that in 
itself, to the prophetic eye, presages decay and vanish- 
ment. In her just but strong proportions, in her lines, 
fine yet not delicate, she "seemed to dare," and did dare, 
"the elements to strife;" while for "her peopled deck," 
when her five hundred and odd men sw^armed up for an 
evolution, or to get their hammocks for the night, it was 
peopled to the square foot, despite her size. On her fore- 
castle, and to the fore and main masts, each, were stationed 
sixty men, full half of them prime seamen, not only in skill, 
but in age and physique — ninety for the starboard watch, 
and ninety for the port; not. to count the mizzen-topmen, 
after-guard, and marines, more than as many more. I 
have always remembered the effect produced upon me by 
this huge mass, when all hands gathered once to wear 
ship in a heavy gale, the height of one of those furious 
pamperos which issue from the prairies (pampas) of Buenos 
Ayres. The ship having only fore and main topsails, close 
reefed, the officers, beyond those of the watch, were not 
summoned; the handling of the yards required only the 

105 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

brute force of muscle, under which, even in such conditions, 
they were as toys in the hands of that superb ship's com- 
pany. I had thus the chance to see things from the poop, 
a kind of bird's-eye view. As the ship fell off before the 
wind, and while the captain was waiting that smoother 
chance which from time to time offers to bring her up to 
it again on the other side with the least shock, she of 
course gathered accelerated way with the gale right aft — 
scudding, in fact. Unsteadied by wind on either side, she 
rolled deeply, and the sight of those four hundred or more 
faces, all turned up and aft, watching intently the officer of 
the deck for the next order, the braces stretched taut along 
in their hands for instant obedience, was singularly strik- 
ing. Usually a midshipman had to be in the midst of such 
matters with no leisure for impressions — at least, of an 
"impressionist" character. Those were the prerogatives 
of the idlers — the surgeon, chaplain, and marine officers — 
who obtained thereby not only the benefit of the show^ 
but material for discussion as to how well the thing had 
been done, or whether it ought to have been done at all. 
The midshipman's part at "all hands" was to be as much 
in the way as was necessary to see all needed gear manned, 
no skulkers, and as much out of the way as his personal 
stability required, from the rush of the huge gangs of sea- 
men "running away'^ with a rope. 

I never had the opportunity of viewing the ship from 
outside under way at sea; but she was delightful to look 
at in port. Her spars, both masts and yards, lofty and 
yet square, were as true to proportion, for perfection of 
appearance, as was her hull; and the twenty-five guns she 
showed on each broadside, in two tiers, though they had 
abundance of working - room, were close enough together 
to suggest two strong rows of solid teeth, ready for instant 
use. Nothing could be more splendidly martial. But 
what old-timers they were, with the swell of their black 

106 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

muzzles, like the lips of a full-blooded negro. Thirty-two- 
pounders, all of them; except on either side five eight-inch 
shell guns, a small tribute to progress. The rest threw 
solid shot for the most part. Imposing as they certainly 
looked, and heavier though they were than most of those 
with which the world's famous sea-fights have been fought, 
they were already antediluvian. A few years later I saw a 
long range of them enjoying their last repose on the skids 
in a navy-yard; and a bystander, with equal truth and ir- 
reverence, called them pop-guns. One almost felt that the 
word should be uttered in a whisper, out of respect for their 
feelings. But the whole equipment of the ship, though up 
to date in itself, was so far of the past that I recall it with 
mingled pathos and interest. What naval officer who may 
read these words was ever shipmate with rope "trusses'' 
for the lower yards, or with a hemp messenger? A "mes- 
senger" was a huge rope, of I suppose eighteen to twenty- 
four inches circumference, used for lifting the anchor. At 
the after end of the ship it was passed three times round 
the capstan, where the men walking roimd merrily to the 
sound of the fife, under the eyes of the officer of the deck, 
were doing the work of weighing; at the forward end it 
moved round rollers to save friction. Thus one part was 
taut imder the strain of the capstan; and to this the cable 
of the anchor, as it was hove in, was made fast by a suc- 
cession of selvagees, for which I will borrow the elaborate 
description of White Jacket, who tells us the name was ap- 
plied by the seamen of his ship to one of the lieutenants: 
"It is a slender, tapering, unstranded piece of rope, pre- 
pared with much solicitude; peculiarly flexible; which 
wreathes and serpentines round the cable and messenger 
like an elegantly modelled garter-snake round the stalks 
of a vine." The messenger thus was appropriately named; 
it w^ent back and forth on its errand of anchor raising, the 
slack side being helped on its way by a row of twelve or 

107 



FROM SAIL TO STE.A3I 

fifteen men seated, pulling it along forward. This gang, 
by immemorial usage, was composed of the colored ser- 
vants, and I can see now that row of black faces, with 
grinning ivories, as they yo-ho'd in undertones together, 
"lighting forward the messenger." 

Like the ship and her equipment, the officers and crew 
by training and methods were still of the olden time in tone 
and ideals; a condition, of course, fostered at the moment 
by the style of vessel. Yet they had that curious adapt- 
ability characteristic of the profession, which afterwards 
enabled them to fall readily into the use of the new con- 
structions of every kind evolved by the War of Secession. 
Concerning some of these, a naval professional hmiiorist 
observed that they could be worshipped without idolatry; 
for they were like nothing in heaven, or on earth, or in the 
waters under the earth. Adored or not, they were handled 
to purpose. By a paradoxical combination, the seaman of 
those days was at once most conservative in temperament 
and versatile in capacity. Among the officers, however, 
there was an open vision towards the future. I well remem- 
ber "Joe" Smith enlarging to me on the merits of Cowper 
Coles's projected turret ship, much talked about in the Brit- 
ish press in 1860; a full year or more before Ericsson, under 
the exigency of existing war, obtained from us a hearing 
for the Monitor. Coles's turrets, being then a novel project, 
were likened, explanatorily, to a railway turn-table, a very 
illustrative definition; and Smith was already convinced 
of the value of the design, which was proved in Hampton 
Roads the day after he himself fell gloriously on the deck 
of the Congress. There is a double tragedy in his missing 
by this brief space the clear demonstration of a system to 
which he so early gave his adherence; and it is another 
tragedy, which most Americans except naval officers will 
have forgotten, that Coles himself found his grave in the 
ship — the Captain — ultimately built through his urgency 

108 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

upon this turret principle. This happened in 1870. The 
tradition of masts and sails, as economical, still surviving, 
she was equipped with them, which we from the beginning 
had discarded in monitors. The Captain was a large ves- 
sel with low freeboard, her deck only six feet above water. 
Lying to under sail in a moderate gale, in the Bay of Bis- 
cay, she heeled over in a squall, bringing the lee side of the 
deck under water; and the force of the wind increasing, 
without meeting the resistance offered ordinarily by the 
pressure of the water against the lee side of a ship, she 
went clean over and sank. The incident made the deeper 
impression upon me because two months before I had 
visited her, when she was lying at Spithead in company 
with another iron-clad, the Monarch, which soon after was 
assigned by the British government to bring George Pea- 
body's remains to their final resting-place in America. I 
then met and was courteously received by the captain of 
the Captain, Burgoyne, of the same family as the general 
known to our War of Independence. Coles had gone mere- 
ly as a passenger, to observe the practical working of his 
designs. I do not know how far the masting was conso- 
nant to his wishes. It may have been forced upon him as 
a concession, necessary to obtain his main end ; but noth- 
ing could be more incongruous than to embarrass the all- 
round fire of turrets by masts and rigging. 

In 1859 the United States government was coquetting 
with the title "Admiral," which was supposed to have some 
insidious connection with monarchical institutions. Even 
so sensible and thoughtful a man as our sail-maker, who was 
a devout disciple and constant reader of Horace Greeley, 
with the advanced poHtical tendencies of the Tribune, said 
to me: "Call them admirals! Never! They will be want- 
ing to be dukes next." We had hit, therefore, on a com- 
promise, quite accordant with the transition decade 1850- 
1860, and styled them flag-officers; concerning which it 
8 109 



FROM SAIL TO STE.4J\I 

might be said that all admirals are flag-officers, but all flag- 
officers were not admirals — not American flag-officers, at 
all events. As a further element in the compromise, in- 
stead of the broad swallow-tailed pendant of a commodore, 
our previous flag-rank, we carried the square flag at the 
mizzen indicative m all navies of a rear-admiral, to which 
we gave a rear-admiral's salute of thirteen gims, and ex- 
pected the same from foreigners; while all the time the 
recipient stood on our Navy Register as a captain, only 
temporarily brevetted Flag-officer. Well do I remember 
the dismay of our flag-officer when, quitting a British ship 
of war, she ffi'ed the customary salute, and stopped at 
eleven — a commodore's perquisite. The hit was harder, 
because the old gentleman was particularly fond of the 
English, having received from them great hospitahty in- 
cidental to his commanding the ship of war which carried 
part of the American exhibition to the World's Fair of 1851. 
An ^^ Et tiij Brute ^' expression came over his face, as he 
sank back with a son'owful exclamation in the stern-sheets 
of the barge, which, as nautical convention requires, was 
lymg motionless, oars horizontal, a ship's - length away; 
when, lo and behold, as a kind of appendix to the previous 
proceedings, bang! bang! went two more guns, filling the 
baker's dozen. It was, of course, somewhat limping, but 
the apology was sufficient. 

Salutes are as hable to accidents as are other affairs 
of well-regulated households, and a little more so; a gUn 
misses fire, or somebody counts wrong, or what not. On 
the Cojigress we rarely had trouble, for the greatest nmnber 
of guns is twenty-one — a national salute — and on our main 
deck we had thirty, any part of which could be ready. If 
one missed fire, the gim next abaft stepped in. If near 
enough, you might hear the primer snap, but the error of 
interv^al was barely appreciable — the effect stood. Laymen 
may not know that the manner of the salute was, and is^ 

110 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

for the officer conducting it to give the orders, " Starboani, 
fire!" "Port, fire!" the discharges thus ranging from for- 
ward, aft, alternately on each side. A nian who cannot 
trust his ear times the interval by watch; most, I presume, 
trust their counting. I once underwent an g^musing faux 
pas in this matter of counting. Of course, the count is a 
serious matter; gun for gun is diplomatically as important 
as an eye for an eye. My captain had heard that an ex- 
cellent precaution was to provide one's self with a number 
of dried beans — with which, needless to say, a ship abounds 
— corresponding to the number of guns. The receipt ran : 
Put them all in one pocket, and with each gun shift a bean 
to the other pocket. He proposed this to me, but I de- 
murred ; I feared I might get mixed on the beans and omit 
to shift one. He did not press me, but when I began to 
perform on the main deck he stood near the hatch on the 
deck above, duly — or unduly — provided with beans. It 
was a national salute; to the port. When I finished, he 
called to me: "You have only fired twenty guns." "No, 
sir," I replied; " twenty-one." " No," he repeated, " twenty; 
for I have a bean left." "All right!" I returned, and I 
banged an appendix; after which, upon counting, it was 
found the captain had twenty-two beans and the French 
twenty- two guns — a "tiger" which I hope they appre- 
ciated, but am sure they did not "return." 

Our flag-officer was a veteran of 1812. He had evident- 
ly been very handsome, to which possibly he owed three 
successive wives, the last one much younger than himself. 
Now, in his sixties, he was still light in his movements. He 
had a queer way of tripping along on the balls of his feet, 
with a half -shuffling movement, his hands buried in his 
pockets, with the thumbs out. He was, I fear, the sort 
of man capable of wearing a frock-coat unbuttoned. It 
was amusing to see him walk the poop with the captain of 
the ship, who out topped him by a head, was ponderous 

111 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

in dimensions, with wide tread and feet like an elephant's; 
yet, it was said by those who had seen, a beautiful waltzer. 
His son, who w^as his clerk, used to say: "The old man's 
feet really aren't so big, if he would not wear such shoes." 
When his shoes were sent up to dry in the sun, as all sea- 
shoes must be at times, the midshipmen knew the occasion 
as a gunboat parade. The flag-officer was styled familiar- 
ly in the navy by the epithet Buckey ; I never saw it spelled, 
but the pronunciation was as given. Report ran that he 
thus called every one, promiscuously; but, although I was 
his aide for nearly six months, I only heard him use it 
once or twice. Possibly he w^as breaking a bad habit. 

Judged by my experience, which I believe was no worse 
than the average, the life of an aide is literally that of a 
dog; it was chiefly following round, or else sitting in a boat 
at a landing, just as a dog waits outside for his master, to 
all hours of the night, till your superior comes down from 
his dinner or out from the theatre. A coachman has a 
"cinch," to use our present-day slang; for he has only his 
own behavior to look to, while the aide has to see that the 
dozen bargemen also behave, don't skip up the wharf for a 
drink, and then forget the way back to the boat. If one 
or two do, no matter how good his dinner may have been, 
the remarks of the flag-officer are apt to be unpleasant; 
not to speak of subsequent interviews with the first-lieu- 
tenant. I trace to those days a horror which has never 
left me of keeping servants waiting. Flag-officers appar- 
ently never heard that pimctuality is the politeness of 
kings. There are, however, occasional compensations; 
bones, I might say, pursuing the dog analogy. One inci- 
dent very interesting to me occurred. The flag-officer had 
a well-deserved reputation for great bravery, and in his 
early career had fought two or three duels. One of these 
had been at Rio Janeiro, on an island in the harbor, and 
he had there killed his man. On this occasion, the barge 

112 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

being manned and I along, we pulled over to the island. 
In the thirty intervening years it must have changed great- 
ly, for many buildings were now on it; but his memo- 
ry evidently was busy and serving him well. He walked 
round meditatively, uttering a low, humming w^histle, his 
hands in his pockets, his secretary and myself following. 
At last he reached a point where he stopped and mused 
for some moments, after which he went quietly and silently 
to the boat. Not a word passed from him to us during 
our stay, nor the subsequent pull to shore; but there can 
be little doubt where his thoughts were. It is right to 
add that on the occasion in question not only was the 
provocation all on the other side, but it was endured by 
him to the utmost that the standards of 1830 would permit. 
To my aideship also I owed an unusual opportunity to 
see an incident of bygone times — the heaving down of a 
fair-sized ship of war. One of our sloops, of some eight 
hundred tons' burden, bound to China, had put into Rio for 
repairs : a leak of no special danger, but so near the keel as 
to demand examination. It might get worse. As yet Rio 
had no dry-dock, and so she must be hove down. This 
operation, probably never known in these days, w^hen dry- 
docks are to be found in all quarters, consisted in heeling 
the ship over, by heavy purchases attached to the top of 
the lower masts, until the keel, or at least so much of the 
side as was necessary, was out of water. As the leverage 
on the masts was extreme, almost everything had to be 
taken out of the ship, guns included, to lighten her to the 
utmost; and the spars themselves were heavily backed to 
bear the strain. The upper works, usually out of water, 
must on the down side be closed and protected against the 
proposed immersion. In short, preparation was minute 
as well as extensive. In the old days, when docks were 
rare, and long voyages would be made in regions without 
local resources, a ship would be hove down two or three 

113 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

times in a cruise, to clean her uncoppered bottom or to see 
what damage worms might be effecting. When frequently 
done, familiarity doubtless made it comparatively easy; 
but by 1859 it had become very exceptional. I have never 
seen another instance. She was taken to a sheltered cove, 
in one of those picturesque bights which abound in the 
harbor of Rio, the most beautiful bay in the world, and 
there, in repeated visits by our flag-officer, I saw most 
stages of the process. Technical details I will not inflict 
upon the reader, but there was one anmsing anecdote told 
me by our carpenter, who as a senior in liis business was 
much to the fore. Some general overhauling was also re- 
quired, and among other things the sloop's captain pointed 
out that the side-board in the cabin was not well secured. 
" I have sometimes to get up two or three times in the night 
to see to it," he said. He had been one of the restored 
victims of the Retiring Board of 1855, and had the reputa- 
tion of loiowing that sideboards exist for other purposes 
than merely being secured; hence, at this pathetic remark, 
the carpenter caught a wink, "on the fly," as it passed 
from the flag-officer to the captain of the Congress and 
back again. The commander invalided soon after, and 
the sloop went on her way to China under the charge of 
the first lieutenant. 

The flag-officer, though not a man of particular distinc- 
tion, possessed strongly that kind of individuality which 
among seamen of the days before steam, when the world 
was less small and less frequented, was more common than 
it is now, when we so cluster that, like shot in a barrel, 
we are roilnded and polished by mere attrition. For- 
merly, characteristics had more chance to emphasize them- 
selves and throw out angles, as I believe they still do in 
long polar seclusions. Withal^ there came from him from 
time to time a whiff of the naval atmosphere of the past, 
like that from a drawer where lavender has been. Going 

114 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

ashore once with him for a constitutional, he caught sight 
of a necktie whicli my fond mother had given me. It 
was black, yes; but with variations. "Humph!" he ejacu- 
lated; "don't wear a thing hke that with me. You look 
like a privateersman." There spoke the rivalries of 1812. 
There had not been a privateersman in the United States 
for near a half-century. A great chum of his was the 
senior surgeon of the frigate, a man near his own years. 
Leaving the ship together for a walk, the surgeon, crossing 
the deck, smudged his white trousers with paint or coal- 
tar, the free application of which in unexpected places is 
one of the snares attending a well-appearing man-of-war. 
"Never mind, doctor," said the flag-officer, consolingly, 
falling back like Sancho Panza on an ancient proverb; 
"remember the two dirtiest things in the world are a 
clean ship and a clean soldier" — paint and pipe -clay, 
to wit. 

Another trait was an extensive, though somewhat mild, 
profanity which took no account of ladies' presence, al- 
though he was almost exaggeratedly deferential to them, 
as well as cordially courteous to all. His speech was like 
his gait, tripping. I remember the arrival of the first steam- 
er of a new French line to Rio. Steam mail-service was 
there and then exceptional; most of our home letters still 
came by sailing-vessel; consequently, this was an event, 
and brought the inevitable banquet. He was present; I 
also, as his aide, seated nearly opposite him, with two or 
three other of our officers. He was called to respond to a 
toast. "Gentlemen and ladies!" he began. "No! Ladies 
and gentlemen — ladies always first, d — n me!" WTiat 
more he said I do not recall, although we all loyally ap- 
plauded him. Many years afterwards, when he was old 
and feeble, an acquaintance of mine met him, and he be- 
gan to tell of the tombstone of some person in whom he 
was interested. After various particulars, he startled his 

115 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

auditor with the general descriptive coruscation, "It was 
covered with angels and cherubs, and the h — 1 knows 
what else.'' 

It w^ould be easily possible to overdraw the personal 
peculiarities of the seamen. I remember nothing corre- 
sponding at all to the extravagances instanced in my early 
reading of Colburn's; such as a frigate's watch — say one 
hundred and fifty men — on liberty in Portsmouth, Eng- 
land, buying up all the gold-laced cocked hats in the place, 
and appearing with them at the theatre. Many, however, 
who have seen a homeward-bound ship leaving port, the 
lower rigging of her three masts crowded with seamen 
from deck to top, returning roundly the cheers given by 
all the ships-of-war present, foreign as wtII as national, as 
she passes, have witnessed also the time-honored ceremony 
of her crew throwing their hats overboard with the last 
cheer. This corresponded to the breaking of glasses after 
a favorite toast, or to the bursts of enthusiasm in a Span- 
ish bull-ring, where Andalusian caps fly by dozens into 
the arena. There, however, the bull-fighter returns them, 
with many bows; but those of the homeward-bounders be- 
come the inheritance of the boatmen of the port. The mid- 
shipman of the watch being stationed on the forecastle, my 
intimates among the crew w^re the staid seamen, approach- 
ing middle-age; allotted there, where they would have least 
going aloft. The two captains of the forecastle — one, I 
shrewdly think, Dutch, the other English, though both had 
English names — would engage in conversation with me at 
times, mingling deference and conscious superior experience 
in due proportion. One, I remember, just before the War of 
Secession began, was greatly exercised about the oncom- 
ing troubles. The causes of the difficulty and the political 
complications disturbed him little; but the probable pros- 
pect of the heads of the rebellion losing their property en- 
grossed his mind. He constantly returned to this; it would 

116 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

be confiscated, doubtless; yet the assertion was an evident 
implied query to me, to which I could give no positive 
answer. As is known, few of the seamen, as of private 
soldiers in the army, sympathized sufficiently with the Con- 
federacy to join it. Indeed, the vaunt I have heard attrib- 
uted to Southern officers of the old navy, which, though 
never uttered in my ears, was very consonant to the South- 
ern spirit as I then knew it, that Southern officers with 
Yankee seamen could beat the world, testified at least to 
the probable attitude of the latter in a war of sections. 
Considering the great naval names of the past, Preble, 
Hull, Decatur, Bainbridge, Stewart, Porter, Perry, and 
Macdonough, the two most Southern of whom came from 
Delaware and Maryland, this ante-bellum assurance was, 
to say the least, self-confident; but Farragut was a South- 
erner. The other captain of the forecastle was less com- 
municative, taciturn by nature; but there ran of him a 
story of amusing simplicity. It occurred to him on one 
occasion that he would lay under contribution the re- 
sources of the ship's small library. Accordingly he went 
to the chaplain, in whose care it was; but as he was 
wholly in the dark as to what particular book he might like, 
the chaplain, after two or three tries, suggested a Life 
of Paid Jones. Yes, he thought he would like that. " You 
see, I was shipmates with him some cruises ago; he was 

with me in the main-top of the ." 

Another forecastle intimate of mine was the boatswain, 
who, like most boatswains of that day, had served his time 
before the mast. As is the case with many self-made men, 
he, on his small scale, was very conscious of the fact, and 
of general consequent desert. A favorite saying with him 
was, "Thanks to my own industry and my wife's economy, 
I am now well beforehand with the world." Like a dis- 
tinguished officer higher in rank of that day, of whom it 
was said that he remembered nothing later than 1813, my 

117 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

boatswain^s memory dwelt much in the thirties, though he 
acknowledged more recent experiences. His attitude tow- 
ards steam, essentially conservative, was strictly and amus- 
ingly official. He had served on board one steamer, the 
San Jacinto; and what had pleased him was that the yards 
could be squared and rigging hauled taut — his own special 
function — before entering port, so that in those respects 
the job had been done when the anchor dropped. One of 
his pet stories, frequently brought forward, concerned a 
schooner in which he had served in the earlier period, and 
will appeal to those who know how dear a fresh coat of 
paint is to a seaman's heart. She had just been thus deco- 
rated within and without, and was standing into a West- 
Indian port to show her fine feathers, when a sudden flaw 
of wind knocked her off, and over, dangerously close to a 
rocky point. The first order given was, " Stand clear of the 
paint-work!" — an instance of the ruling passion strong in 
extremis. He had another woesome account of a sloop-of- 
war in which he had gone through the Straits of Magellan. 
The difficult navigation and balky winds made the passage 
protracted for a sailing-vessel; all were put on short rations, 
and the day before she entered a Chilian port the bread- 
room was swept to the last crumbs. " I often could not 
sleep for hunger when I turi\ed in." In the same ship, 
the watch-officers falling short, through illness or suspen- 
sion, the captain set a second lieutenant of marines to take a 
day watch. Being, as he supposed, put to do something, 
he naturally wanted to do it, if he only knew what it was, 
and how it was to be done. The master of the ship was 
named Peter Wager, and to him, w^hcn taking sights, the 
marine appealed. "Peter, what's the use of being officer 
of the deck if you don't do anything? Tell me something 
to do." "Well," Peter replied, "you might send all the 
watch aft and take in the mizzen-royal " — the mizzen-royal 
being the smallest of all sails, requiring about two ordi- 

118 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

nary men, and in no wise missed when in. This was prac- 
tical "tales for the marines." 

This boatswain afterwards saw the last of the Congress, 
when the Merrimac — or rather the Virginia, to give her her 
Confederate name — wasted time mm*dering a ship already 
dead, aground and on fire. He often afterwards spmi me 
the yarn; for I liked the old man, and not infrequently 
went to see him in later days. He had borne good-hu- 
moredly the testiness with which a youngster is at times 
prone to assert himself against what he fancies interference, 
and I had appreciated the rebuke. The Congress disaster 
was a very big and striking incident in the career of any 
person, and it both ministered to his self-esteem and pro- 
vided the evening of his hfe with material for talk. Un- 
happily, I have to confess, as even Boswell at times did, 
I took no notes, and cannot reproduce that which to me 
is of absorbing interest, the individual impressions of a 
vivid catastrophe. 

The boatswain was one of the four who in naval phrase 
were termed "warrant" officers, in distinction from the 
lieutenants and those above, who held their offices by 
"commission." The three others were the gimner, car- 
penter, and saihnaker, names which sufficiently indicate 
their several functions. In the hierarchical classification 
of the navy, as then estabhshed by long tradition, the mid- 
shipmen, although on their way to a commission, were 
warrant officers also; and in consequence, though they had 
a separate mess, they had the same smoking-place, the 
effect of which in estabhshing a community of social inter- 
course every smoker will recognize. I suppose, if there 
had been three sides to a ship, there would have been 
three smoking-rendezvous; but in the crude barbarism of 
those days — as it will now probably be considered — both 
commissioned and warrant officers had no place to smoke 
except away forward on the gun-deck — the "eyes" of the 

119 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

ship, as the spot was appropriately named; the superiors 
on the honor side, which on the gun-deck was the port, 
the midshipmen and warrant officers on the starboard. 
The position was not without advantages, when riding 
head to wind, in hot tropical weather; but under way, 
close-hauled, with a stiff breeze, a good deal of salt water 
found its way in, especially if the jackasses were in the 
hawse-holes. But under such conditions we sat there 
serenely, the water coursing in a flowing stream under our 
chairs if the ship had a steady heel, or rushing madly from 
side to side if she lurched to windward. The stupidity of 
it was that we didn't even know we were uncomfortable, 
and by all soimd philosophy were so far better off than 
our better accommodated successors. What was more an- 
noying was the getting forward at night, when the ham- 
mocks were in place; but even for that occasional com- 
pensations offered. I remember once, when making this 
awkward journey, hearing a colloquy between two young 
seamen just about to swing themselves into bed at nine 
o'clock. "I say. Bill,'' said one, with voluptuous satis- 
faction, "two watches in,^ and beans to-morrow." Can 
any philosophy soar higher than that, in contentment with 
small things? Plain living and high thinking! Diogenes 
wasn't in it. 

As the warrant officers of the ship were of the genera- 
tion before us, we heard from their lips many racy and 
entertaining experiences of the former navy, most of which 
naturally have escaped me, while others I have dropped all 
along the line of my preceding reminiscences where they 
seemed to come in aptly. Each of the four had very dif- 
ferent characteristics, and I fancy they did not agree very 

^ Perhaps it is better to explain that there are three watches from 
8 P.M. to 8 A.M.; the two watches into which the crew were divided 
had on alternate nights one watch, or two watches, on deck. This 
sybarite was foretasting two watches below. 

120- 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

well together. All have long since gone to their rest ; peace 
be with them! Four is an awkwardly small number for 
a mess-table of equals; friction is emphasized by narrow- 
ness of sphere. "I didn't hke the man/' said the boat- 
swain afterwards to me of the sailmaker, narrating the de- 
struction of the Congress; "but he is brave, brave as can 
be. Getting the wounded over the side to put them ashore, 
he was as cool as though nothing was happening. The great 
guns weren't so bad," he continued — " but the rifle-bullets 
that came singing along in clouds like mosquitoes! Yah!" 
he used to snap, each time he told me the tale, slapping 
his ears right and left, as one does at the hum of those in- 
trusive insects. He did not like the carpenter, either, for 
reasons of another kind. They were both humorists, but 
of a different order. Indeed, I don't think that the boat- 
swain, though slightly sardonic in expression, suspected 
himself of humor; but he really came at times pretty close 
to wit, if that be a perception of incongruities, as I have 
heard said. He was telling one day of some mishap that 
befell a vessel, wherein the officer in charge showed the 
happy blending of composure and ignorance we sometimes 
find ; a condition concerning which a sufferer once said of 
himself, "I never open my mouth but I put my foot in 
it;" a confusion of metaphor, and suggestion of physical 
contortion, not often so neatly combined in a dozen words. 
The boatswain commented: "He didn't mind. He didn't 
know what to do, but there he stood, looking all the time 
as happy as a duck barefooted." A duck shod, and the 
consequent expression of its countenance, presents to 
my mind infinite entertainment. Our first lieutenant, 
under whom immediately he worked, was a great trial to 
him. He was an elderly man, as first lieutenants of big 
ships were then, great with the paint-brush and tar-pot, 
traces of which were continually surprising one's clothes; 
mighty also in that lavish swashing of sea-water which is 

121 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

called washing decks, and in the tropics is not so bad; but 
otherwise, while he was one of the kindliest of men, the go 
was pretty well out of him. "Yes," the boatswain used to 
say grimly, — he seldom smiled, — " the first heutenant is like 
an old piece of soap — half wore out. Go day, come day, 
God send Sunday; that's he." 

The carpenter, on the other hand, was always on a broad 
grin — or rather roar. He breathed farce, both in story 
and feature. Unlike the boatswain, who was middle-sized 
and very trig, as well as scrupulously neat, the carpenter 
was over six feet, broad in proportion, w^ith big, round, red, 
close-shaven face, framed with abundance of white hair. 
He looked not unlike one's fancies of the typical Eng- 
lish yeoman, while withal having a strong Yankee flavor. 
Wearing always a frock-coat, buttoned up as high as any 
one then buttoned, he carried with it a bluff heartiness of 
manner, which gave an impression of solidity not, I fear, 
wholly sustained on demand. There was no such doubt 
about the fun, however, or his own huge enjoyment of his 
own stories, accompanied by a running fire of guffaws, 
which pointed the appreciation we easily gave. But it 
was all of the same character, broad farce ; accounts of mis- 
haps such as befall in children's pantomimes, — ^which their 
seniors enjoy, too, — practical jokes equally ludicrous, and 
resulting situations to match. Comical as such tales were 
at the time, and many a pleasant pipeful of Lynchburg 
tobacco in Powhatan clay though they whiled away, they 
lacked the catching and fixing power of the boatswain's 
shrewd sayings. I can remember distinctly only one, of two 
small midshipmen, shipmates of his in a sloop-of-war of 
long-gone days, who had a deadly quarrel, calling for blood. 
A duel ashore might in those times have been arranged, 
unknown to superiors — they often were; but the necessity 
for speedy satisfaction was too urgent, and they could not 
wait for the end of the voyage. Consequently, they de- 

122 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

terminecl to fight from the two ends of the spritsail-yard, a 
horizontal spar which crossed the bowsprit end, and gave, or 
could admit, the required number of paces. Seconds, I pre- 
sume, were omitted ; they might have attracted unnecessary 
attention, and on the yard would have been in the way of 
shot, unless they sat behind their several principals, like 
damsels on a pillion. So these two mites, procuring each 
a loaded pistol, crawled out quietly to their respective 
places, straddled the yard, and were proceeding to business, 
when the boatswain caught sight of them from his fre- 
quent stand-point between the knightheads. He ran out, 
got between them in the line of fire, and from this position 
of tactical advantage, having collared first one and then the 
other, brought them both in on the forecastle, where he 
knocked their heads together. The last action, I fancy, 
must be considered an embellishment, necessary to the 
dramatic completeness of the incident, though it may at 
least be admitted it would not have been incongruous. In 
telling this occurrence, which, punctuated by his own 
laughter, bore frequent repetition, the carpenter used to 
give the names of the heroes. One I have forgotten. The 
other I knew in after life and middle-age, still small of 
stature, with a red face, in outline much like a paroquet's. 
He was not a bad fellow; but his first lieutenant, a very 
competent critic, used to say that what he did not know 
of seamanship would fill a large book. 

At first thought it seems somewhat singular that the six 
lieutenants of the ship presented no such aggregate of 
idiosyncrasies as did the four warrant officers. It was not 
by any means because we did not know them well, and 
mingle among them with comparative frequency. Mid- 
shipmen, we travelled from one side to the other; here at 
home, there guests, but to both admitted freely. But, 
come to think of it more widely, the distinction I here note 
must have had a foundation in conditions. My acquaint- 

123 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

ance with Marryat, who hved the naval Ufe as no other sea 
author has, is now somewhat remote, but was once inti- 
mate as well as extensive; and recollection deceives me if the 
same remark does not apply to his characters. He has a 
full gallery of captains and lieutenants, each differing from 
the other; but his greatest successes in portrayal, those 
that take hold of the memory, are his warrant officers — 
boatswains, gunners, and carpenters. The British navy 
did not give sailmakers this promotion. By-products 
though they are, rather than leading characters. Boat- 
swain Chucks, whom Marryat takes off the stage midway, 
as though too much to sustain to the end. Carpenter Mud- 
dle, and Gunner Tallboys, with his aspirations towards 
navigating, sketched but briefly and in bold outline as they 
are, survive most of their superiors in clear individuality 
and amusing eccentricity. Peter Simple, and even Jack 
Easy himself, whose traits are more personal than nautical, 
are less vivid to memory. Cooper also, who caricatures 
rather than reproduces life, seeks here his fittest subjects — 
Boltrope and Trysail — ^warrant masters, superior in grade 
indeed to the others, but closely identified with them on 
board ship, and essentially of the same class. Such coinci- 
dence betokens a more pronounced individuality in the 
subject-matter. There have been particular eccentric com- 
missioned officers, of whom quaint stories have descended; 
but in early days, originality was the class-mark of those of 
whom I am speaking, as many an anecdote witnesses. I 
fancy few will have seen this, which I picked up in my 
miscellaneous nautical readings. A boatswain, who had 
been with Cook in his voj^ages, chanced upon one of those 
fervent Methodist meetings common in the eighteenth 
century. The preacher, in illustration of the abundance 
of the Divine mercy, affirmed that there was hope for 
the worst, even for the boatswain of a man-of-war; where- 
upon the boatswain sprang to the platform and adminis- 

124 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

tered a drubbing. True or not, offence and punisliinent 
testify to public estimate as to character and action; to 
a natural exaggeration of feature which lends itself read- 
ily to reproduction. This was due, probably, to a more 
contracted sphere in early life, and afterwards less of that 
social opportunity, in the course of which angular projec- 
tions are rounded off and personal peculiarities softened by 
various contact. The same cause would naturally occasion 
more friction and disagreement among themselves. 

Thus the several lieutenants of our frigate call for no 
special characterization. If egotism, the most amusing of 
traits where it is not offensive, existed among them to any 
unusual degree, it was modified and concealed by the ac- 
quired exterior of social usage. Their interests also were 
wider. With them, talk was less of self and personal ex- 
perience, and more upon subjects of general interest, pro- 
fessional or external; the outlook was wider. But while all 
this tended to make them more instructive, and in so far 
more useful companions, it also took from the salt of in- 
dividuality somewhat of its pungency. It did not faU to 
them, either, to become afterwards especially conspicuous 
in the nearing War of Secession. They were good seamen 
and gallant men; knew their duty and did it; but either 
opportunity failed them, or they failed opportunity; from 
my knowledge of them, probably the former. As Nelson 
once wrote : " A sea officer cannot form plans like those of 
a land officer; his object is to embrace the happy moment 
which now and then offers; it may be this day, not for a 
month, and perhaps never." So also Farragut is reported 
to have said of a conspicuous shortcoming : " Every man 
has one chance; he has had his and lost it." Certainly, by 
failure that man lost promotion with its chances. It is 
somewhat congruous to this train of thought that Smith, 
whom I have so often mentioned, said one day to me : " If 
I had a son (he was immarried), I would put him in the 
9 125 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

navy without hesitation. I beheve there is a day coming 
shortly when the opportunities for a naval officer will ex- 
ceed any that our country has yet known." He did not 
say what contingencies he had in mind; scarcely those of 
the War of Secession, large looming though it already was, 
for, like most of us, he doubtless refused to entertain that 
sorrowful possibility. As with many a prophecy, his was 
of wider scope than he thought; and, though in part ful- 
filled, more yet remains on the laps of the gods. He him- 
seK, perhaps the ablest of this group, was cut off too early 
to contribute more than an heroic memory; but that must 
live in naval annals, enshrined in his father's phrase, along 
with Craven's "After you, pilot," when the Tecumseh sank. 



VI 

MY FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION — NAUTICAL 

SCENES AND SCENERY — THE APPROACH 

OF DISUNION 

1859-1861 

The absence of the Congress lasted a little over two 
yearS; the fateful two years in which the elements of strife 
in the United States were sifting apart and gathering in 
new combinations for the tremendous outbreak of 1861. 
The first battle of Bull Run had been fought before she 
again saw a home port. The cruise offered httle worthy of 
special note. This story is one of commonplaces; but they 
are the commonplaces of conditions which have passed 
away forever, and some details are worthy to be not en- 
tirely forgotten, now that the life has disappeared. We 
were in contact with it in all its forms and phases; being, 
as midshipmen, utilized for every kind of miscellaneous and 
nondescript duty. Our captain interfered very little with 
us directly, and I might almost say washed his hands of us. 
The regulations required that at the expiry of a cruise the 
commander of a vessel should give his midshipmen a letter, 
to be presented to the board of examiners before whom they 
were shortly to appear. Ours, while certifying to our gen- 
eral correct behavior — personal rather than official — limit- 
ed himself, on the score of professional accomplishments, 
which should have been under constant observ^ance, to say- 
ing that, as we were soon to appear before a board, the in- 
tent of which would be to test them, he forbore an opinion. 

127 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

This was even more non-committal than another captain, 
whose certificates came under my eye when myself a mem- 
ber of a board. In these, after some very cautious com- 
mendation on the score of conduct, he added, " I should 
have liked the display of a little more zeal/^ Zeal, the 
readers of Midshipman Easy will remember, is the naval 
universal solvent. Although liable at times to be mis- 
placed, as Easy found, it is not so suspicious a quality as 
Talleyrand considered it to be in diplomacy. 

Our captain's zeal for our improvement confined itself to 
putting us in three watches ; that is, every night we had to 
be on deck and duty through one of the three periods, of 
four hours each, into which the sea night is divided. Of 
this he made a principle, and in it doubtless found the sat- 
isfaction of a good conscience; he had done all that could 
be expected, at least by himself. I personally agree with 
Basil Hall; upon the whole, watch keeping pays, yields more 
of interest than of disagreeables. It must be conceded that 
it was unpleasant to be waked at midnight in your warm 
hammock, told your hour was come, that it was raining and 
blowing hard, that another reef was about to be taken in 
the topsails and the topgallant yards sent on deck. Patri- 
otism and glory seemed very poor stimulants at that mo- 
ment. Still half asleep, you tumbled, somewhat literally, 
out of the hammock on to a deck probably wet, dressed by 
a dim, single-wick swinging lantern, which revealed chiefly 
what you did not want, or by a candle which had to be watch- 
ed with one eye lest it roll over and, as once in my experi- 
ence happened, set fire to wood-work. Needless to say, elec- 
tric lights then were not. Dressed in storm-clothes about as 
conducive to agility as a suit of mediaeval armor, and a 
sou'wester which caught at every corner you turned, you 
forced your way up through two successive tarpaulin-cov- 
ered hatches, by holes just big enough to pass, pushing 
aside the tarpaulin with one hand while the other steadied 

128 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

yourself. And if there were no moon, how black the out- 
side was, to an eye as yet adjusted only to the darkness 
visible of the lanterns below! Except a single ray on the 
little book by which the midshipman mustered the watch, 
no gleam of artificial light was permitted on the spar — 
upper — deck; the fitful flashes dazzled more than they 
helped. You groped your way forward with some certain- 
ty, due to familiarity with the ground, and with more cer- 
tainty of being jostled and trampled by your many watch- 
mates, quite as blind and much more sleepy than their 
officers could afford to be. The rain stung your face; the 
wind howled in your ears and drowned your voice; the 
men were either intent on going below, or drowsy and ill- 
reconciled to having to come on deck; in either case in- 
attentive and hard to move for some moments. 

In truth, the fifteen minutes attending the change of a 
watch were a period not only of inconvenience, but of real 
danger too rarely appreciated. I remember one of the 
smartest seamen and officers of the old navy speaking feel- 
ingly to me of the anxiety those instants often caused him. 
The lieutenant of an expiring watch too frequently would 
postpone some necessary step, either from personal in- 
dolence or from a good-natured indisposition to disturb 
the men, who when not needed to work slept about the 
decks — except, of course, the lookouts and wheel. The 
other watch v/ill soon be coming up, he would argue; let 
them do it, before they settle down to sleep. There were 
times, such as a slowly increasing gale, which might justify 
delay; especially if the watch had had an unusual amount 
of work. But tropical squalls, which gather quickly and 
sweep down with hurricane force, are another matter; and 
it was of these the officer quoted spoke, suggesting that 
possibly such an experience had caused the loss of one of 
our large, tall-sparred sloops-of-war, the Albany, which in 
1854 disappeared in the West Indies. The men who have 

129 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

been four hours on deck are thinking only of their ham- 
mocks; their rehefs are not half awake, and do not feel they 
are on duty until the watch is mustered. All are mingled 
together; the very numbers of a ship of war under such 
circumstances impede themselves and their officers. I re- 
member an acquaintance of mine telling me that once on 
taking the trumpet, the outward and visible sign of "the 
deck being relieved," his predecessor, after "turning over 
the night orders," said, casually, "It looks like a pretty 
big squall coming up there to windward," and incontinent- 
ly dived below. "I jumped on the horse-block," said the 
narrator, "and there it was, sure enough, coming down 
hand over fist. I had no time to shorten sail, but only to 
put the hehn up and get her before it;" an instance in point 
of what an old gray-haired instructor of ours used to say, 
with correct accentuation, "Always the helium first." 

But, when you were awake, what a mighty stimulus there 
was in the salt roaring wind and the pelting rain! how in- 
fectious the shout of the officer of the deck! the answering 
cry of the topmen aloft — the " Haul out to windward ! To- 
gether! All!" that reached your ear from the yards as the 
men struggled with the wet, swollen, thrashing canvas, mas- 
tering it with mighty pull, and "lighting to windward" the 
reef-band which was to be the new head of the sail, ready to 
the hand of the man at the post of honor, the w^eather ear- 
ing ! How eager and absorbing the gaze through the dark- 
ness, from deck, to see how they were getting on; whether 
the yard was so braced that the sail lay with the wind out of 
it, really slack for handhng, though still bellying and lift- 
ing as the ship rolled, or headed up or off; whether this rope 
or that which controlled the wilful canvas needed another 
pull. But if the yard itself had not been laid right, it was too 
late to mend it. To start a brace with the men on the spar 
might cause a jerk that would spill from it some one whose 
both hands were in the w^ork, contrary to the sound tradi- 

130 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

tion, "One hand for yourself and one for the owners." I 
beheve the old English phrase ran, "One for yourself and 
one for the king." Then, when all was over and snug once 
more, the men down from aloft, the rigging coiled up again 
on its pins, there succeeded the delightful relaxation from 
work well done and finished, the easy acceptance of the 
quieting yet stimulating effect of the strong air, enjoyed in 
indolence; for nothing was more unoccupied than the sea- 
man when the last reef was in the topsails and the ship 
lying-to. 

Talking of such sensations, and the idle abandon of a 
whole gale of wind after the ship is secured, I wonder how 
many of my readers will have seen the following ancient 
song. I guard myself from implying the full acquiescence 
of seamen in what is, of course, a caricature; few seamen, 
few who have tried, really enjoy bad weather. Yet there 
are exceptions. That there is no accounting for tastes is 
extraordinarily true. I once met a man, journeying, who 
told me he liked living in a sleeping-car; than which to me 
a dozen gales, with their abounding fresh air, would be 
preferable. Yet this ditty does grotesquely reproduce the 
lazy satisfaction and security of the old-timers under the 
conditions : 

" One night came on a hurricane, 

The sea was mountains rolling, 
When Barney Buntline turned his quid 

And said to Billy Bowline, 
*A strong norVester's blowing, Bill: 

Hark! don't you hear it roar now? 
Lord help them! how I pities all 

Unlucky folks on shore now. 

" ' Foolhardy chaps, that live in towns, 
What dangers they are all in! 
And now lie shaking in their beds. 
For fear the roof should fall in! 

131 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

Poor creatures, how they envies us, 

And wishes, I've a notion. 
For our good luck, in such a storm. 

To be upon the ocean. 

" 'And often, Bill, I have been told 

How folks are killed, and undone, 
By overturns of carriages. 

By fogs and fires in London. 
We know what risks all landsmen run. 

From noblemen to tailors; 
Then, Bill, let us thank Providence 

That you and I are sailors.' " 

Tastes differ as to which of the three night watches is 
preferable. Perhaps some one who has tried wull reply 
they are all alike detestable, and, if he be Irish, will add 
that the only decent watch on deck is the watch below — an 
"all night in." But I also have tried; and while prepared 
to admit that perhaps the pleasantest moment of any par- 
ticular watch is that in which your successor touches his 
cap and says, " I'll relieve you," I still maintain there are 
abundant and large compensations. Particularly for a 
midshipman, for he had no responsibiUties. The heuten- 
ant of the watch had always before him the possibilities 
of a mischance ; and one very good officer said to me he did 
not believe any lieutenant in the na\^ felt perfectly com- 
fortable in charge of the deck in a heavy gale. Freedom 
from anxiety, however, is a matter of temperament; not 
by any means necessarily of courage, although it adds to 
courage the invaluable quality of not wasting nerve force 
on difficulties of the imagination. A w^eather-brace may 
go unexpectedly; a topsail-sheet part; an awkward wave 
come on board. Very true; but what is the use of worry- 
ing, unless you are constitutionally disposed to worry. If 
you are constitutionally so disposed, I admit there is not 
much use in talking. Illustrative of this, the following 

L32 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

story has come down of two British admirals, both men of 
proved merit and gallantry. "When Howe was in com- 
mand of the Channel Fleet, after a dark and boisterous 
night, in which the ships had been in some danger of run- 
ning foul of each other. Lord Gardner, then the third in 
command, the next day went on board the Queen Char- 
lotte and inquired of Lord Howe how he had slept, for that 
he himself had not been able to get any rest from anxiety 
of mind. Lord Howe said he had slept perfectly well, for, 
as he had taken every possible precaution he could before 
dark, he laid himself down with a conscious feeling that 
everything had been done which it was in his power to 
do for the safety of the ships and of the lives intrusted to 
his care, and this conviction set his mind at ease.'' The 
apprehensiveness with which Gardner was afflicted "is 
further exemplified by an anecdote told by Admiral Sir 
James Whitshed, who commanded the Alligator, next him 
in the line. Such was his anxiety, even in ordinary weath- 
er, that, though each ship carried three poop lanterns, he 
always kept one burning in his cabin, and when he thought 
the Alligator was approaching too near, he used to run out 
into the stern gallery with the lantern in his hand, waving 
it so as to be noticed." My friend above quoted had only 
recently quitted a brig-of-w^ar, on board which he had 
passed several night watches with a man standing by the 
lee topsail-sheet, axe in hand, to cut if she went over too 
far, lest she might not come back; and the circumstance 
had left an impression. I do not think he was much troubled 
in this way on board our frigate ; yet the Savannah, but little 
smaller than the Congress, had been laid nearly on her beam- 
ends by a sudden squall, and had to cut, when entering Rio 
two years before. 

Being even at nineteen of a meditative turn, fond of build- 
ing castles in the air, or recalling old acquaintance and auld 
lang syne, — the retrospect of youth, though short, seems 

133 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

longer than that of age, — I preferred in ordinary weather 
the mid-watch, from midnight to four. There was 
then less doing; more time and scope to enjoy. The can- 
vas had long before been arranged for the night. If the 
wind shifted, or necessity for tacking arose, of com'se it 
was done; but otherwise a considerate officer would let 
the men sleep, only rousing them for imperative reasons. 
The hum of the ship, the loitering "idlers," — men who do 
not keep watch, — last well on to ten, or after, in the pre- 
ceding watch; and the officers of the deck in sailing-ships 
had not the reserve — or preserve — which the isolation of 
the modern bridge affords its occupants. Although the 
weather side of the quarter-deck was kept clear for him 
and the captain, there was continued going and coming, 
and talking near by. He was on the edge of things, if not 
in the midst; while the midshipman of the forecastle had 
scarce a foot he could call his very own. But when the 
mid-watch had been mustered, the lookouts stationed, and 
the rest of them had settled themselves down for sleep 
between the guns, out of the way of passing feet, the fore- 
castle of the Congress offered a very decent promenade, 
magnificent compared to that proverbial of the poops of 
small vessels — "two steps and overboard." Then began 
the steady pace to and fro, which to me was natural and in- 
herited, easily maintained and consistent with thought — in- 
deed, productive of it. Not every officer has this habit, but 
most acquire it. I have been told that, however weakly 
otherwise, the calf muscles of watch-officers were general- 
ly well developed. There were exceptions. A lieutenant 
who was something of a wag on one occasion handed the 
midshipman of his watch a small instrument, in which the 
latter did not recognize a pedometer. "Will you kindly 
keep this in your trousers-pocket for me till the watch is 
over?" At eight bells he asked for it, and, after examin- 
ing, said, quizzically, "Mr. , I see you have walked 

134 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

just half a mile in the last four hours." Of course, walking 
is not imperative, one may watch standing; but movement 
tends to wakefulness — you can drowse upon your feet — 
while to sit down, besides being forbidden by unwritten 
law, is a treacherous snare to young eyelids. 

How much a watch afforded to an eye that loved nature ! 
I have been bored so often by descriptions of scenery, that 
I am warned to put here a sharp check on my memory, lest 
it run awa}^ with me, and my readers seek escape by jump- 
ing off. I will forbear, therefore, any attempt at portrait- 
ure, and merely mention the superb aurora borealis which 
illuminated several nights of the autumn of 1859, percepti- 
bly affecting the brightness of the atmosphere, while we 
lay becalmed a little north of the tropics. But other things 
I shall have some excuse for telling; because what my eyes 
used to see then few mortal eyes will see again. Travel will 
not reach it; for though here and there a rare sailing-ship 
is kept in a navy, for occasional instruction, otherwise they 
have passed away forever; and the exceptions are but cu- 
riosities — reality has disappeared. They no longer have 
life, and are now but the specimens of the museum. The 
beauties of a brilliant night at sea, whether starlit or 
moonlit, the solemn, awe-inspiring gloom and silence of a 
clouded, threatening sky, as the steamer with dull thud 
moves at midnight over the waste of waters, these I need 
not describe ; many there are that see them in these rambling 
days. These eternities of the heavens and the deep abide 
as before, are common to the steamer as to the sailing-ship; 
but what weary strain of words can restore to imagination 
the beautiful living creature which leaped under our feet 
and spread her wings above us? For a sailing-ship was 
more inspiring from within than from without, especially 
a ship of war, which, as usually ordered, permitted no 
slovenliness; abounded in the perpetual seemliness that 
enhances beauty yet takes naught from grace. Viewed 

135 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

from without, undeniably a ship under sail possesses at- 
traction ; but it is from within that you feel the " very pulse 
of the machine." No canvas looks so lofty, speaks so elo- 
quently, as that seen from its own deck, and this chiefly 
has invested the sailing-vessel with its poetry. This the 
steamer, with its vulgar appeal to physical comfort, can- 
not give. Does any one know any verse of real poetry, 
any strong, thrilling idea, suitably voiced, concerning a 
steamer? I do — one — by Clough, depicting the wrench 
from home, the stern inspiration following the wail of 
him who goeth away to return no more : 

''Come back! come back! 
Back flies the foam; the hoisted flag streams back; 
The long smoke wavers on the homeward track. 
Back fly with winds things which the winds obey, 
The strong ship follows its appointed way." 

Oddly enough, two of the most striking sea scenes that 
I remember, very different in character, associate them- 
selves with my favorite mid-watch. The first was the 
night on which we struck the northeast trade-winds, out- 
ward bound. We had been becalmed for nearly, if not 
quite, two weeks in the ^' horse latitudes;" which take their 
name, tradition asserts, from the days when the West 
India sugar islands depended for live-stock, and much be- 
sides, on the British continental colonies. If too long be- 
calmed, and water gave out, the unhappy creatures had 
to be thrown overboard to save human lives. On the other 
side of the northeast trades, between them and the south- 
east, towards the equator, lies another zone of calms, the 
doldrums, from which also the Congress this time suffered. 
We were sixty seven or eight days from the Capes of the 
Delaware to Bahia, a distance, direct, of little more than 
four thousand miles. Of course, there was some beating 
against head wind, but we could not have averaged a hun- 

136 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

dred miles to the twenty-four hours. During much of this 
passage the allowance of fresh water was reduced to two 
quarts per man, except sick, for all purposes of consump- 
tion — drinking and cooking. Under such conditions, 
washing had to be done with salt water. 

We had worried our weary way through the horse lati- 
tudes, embracing every flaw of wind, often accompanied 
by rain, to get a mile ahead here, half a dozen miles there; 
and, as these spurts come from every quarter, this involves 
a lot of bracing — changing the position of the yards; con- 
tinuous work, very different from the placid restfulness of 
a "whole gale" of wind, with everything snug ^loft and 
no chance of let-up during the watch. Between these 
occasional puffs would come long pauses of dead calm, in 
which the midshipman of the watch would enter in the 
log: ^' 1 A.M., knots; 2 a.m., 6 fathoms (| knot); 3 a.m., 
knots; 4 a.m., 1 knot, 2 fathoms;" the last representing 
usually a guess of the officer of the deck as to what would 
make the aggregate for the four hours nearly right. It 
did not matter, for we were hundreds of miles from land 
and the sky always clear for observations. Few of the 
watch got much sleep, because of the perpetual bracing; 
and all the while the ship rolling and sending, in the long, 
glassy ocean swell, unsteadied by the empty sails, which 
swung out with one lurch as though full, and then slapped 
back all together against the masts, with a swing and a 
jerk and a thud that made every spar tremble, and the 
vessel herself quiver in unison. Nor were we alone. Fre- 
quently two or three American clippers would be hull-up 
at the same moment within our horizon, bound the same 
way; and it was singular how, despite the apparently im- 
broken calm, we got av/ay from one another and disap- 
peared. Ships lying with their heads "all around the 
compass" flapped themselves along in the direction of 
their bows, the line of least resistance. 

137 



FROM SAIL TO STEAIVI 

I do not know at what hour under such circumstances we 
had struck the trades, but when I came on deck at mid- 
night we had got them steady and strong. As there was 
still a good deal of easting to make, the sliip had been 
brought close to the wind on the port tack; the bowlines 
steadied out, but not dragged, every sail a good rap full, 
"fast asleep,'^ without the tremor of an eyehd, if I may so 
style a weather leach, or of any inch of the canvas, from 
the royals down to the courses. Every condition was as 
if arranged for a special occasion, or to recompense us for 
the tedium of the horse latitudes. The moon was big, and 
there was a clear sky, save for the narrow band of tiny 
clouds, massed hke a flock of sheep, which ever fringes the 
horizon of the trades; always on the horizon, as you pro- 
gress, yet never visible above when the horizon of this hour 
has become the zenith of the next. After the watch was 
mustered and the lookouts stationed, there came perfect 
silence, save for the shght, but not ominous, singing of the 
wind through the rigging, and the dash of the water against 
the bows, audible forward though not aft. The seamen, 
not romantically incHned, for the most part heeded neither 
moon nor sky nor canvas. The vivid, delicate tracery of 
the shrouds and running gear, the broader image of the 
sails, shadowed on the moonlit deck, appealed not to 
them. Recognizing only that we had a steady wind, no 
more bracing to-night, and that the most that could hap- 
pen would be to furl the royals should it freshen, they hast- 
ened to stow themselves away for a full due between the 
cannon, out of the way of passing feet, sure that this watch 
on deck would be little less good than one below. Perhaps 
there were also visions of " beans to-morrow." I trust so. 

The lieutenant of the watch. Smith, and I had it all to 
ourselves; mibroken, save for the half -hourly call of the 
lookouts: ''Starboard cathead!" "Port cathead!" ''Star- 
board gangway!" "PortgangAvay!" "Lifebuoy!" He came 

138 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION . 

forward from time to time to take it all in, and to see how 
the light spars were standing, for the ship was heehng eight 
or ten degrees, and racing along, however quietly; but the 
strain was steady, no wliipping about from mieasy move- 
ment of the vessel, and we carried on to the end. Each hour 
I hove the log and reported: one o'clock, eleven knots; 
two o'clock, eleven; three o'clock, eleven— famous going 
for an old saihng-sliip close-hauled. Splendid! we rubbed 
our hands; what a record! But, alas! at four o'clock, ten! 
Commonly, ten used to be a kind of standard of excellence ; 
Nelson once wrote, as expressive of an utmost of hopeful- 
ness, " If we all went ten knots, I should not think it fast 
enough;" but, puffed up as we had been, it was now a sad 
come-do^Ti. Smith looked at me. "Are you siire, Mr. 
Mahan?" With the old hand-log, its hne running out while 
the sand sped its way through the four teen-seconds glass, 
the log-heaver might sometimes, by judicious "feeding" — 
hurrying the Hne under the plea of not dragging the log- 
chip — squeeze a little more record out of the log-line than 
the facts warranted ; and Smith seemed to feel I might have 
done a little better for the watch and for the ship. But 
in truth, when a cord is rushing through your hand at the 
rate of ten miles an hour — fifteen feet a second — you 
cannot get hold enough to hasten the pace. He passed 
through a struggle of conscience. " AVell, I suppose I must; 
log her ten-four." A poor tail to our beautiful kite. 
Ten-four meant ten and a half; for in those primitive days 
knots were divided into eight fathoms. Now they are 
reckoned by tenths; a small triumph of the decimal sys- 
tem, which may also carr}^ cheer to the constant hearts 
of the speUing reformers. 

A year later, at like dead of night, I witnessed quite an- 
other scene. We were then off the mouth of the river La 
Plata, perhaps two hundred miles from shore. We had 
been a fortnight at sea, cruising ; and I have always thought 

139 



FROM SAIL TO STEAJVI 

that the captain, who was interested in meteorology and 
knew the region, kept us out till we should catch a j)am- 
pero. We caught it, and quite up to sample. I had been 
on deck at 9 p.m., and the scene then, save for the force 
of the wind, was nearly the same as that I have just de- 
scribed. The same sail, the same cloudless sky and large 
moon; but we were going only five knots, with a quiet, 
ripphng sea, on which the moonbeams danced. Such a 
scene as Byron doubtless had in memory: 



" The midnight moon is weaving 
Her bright chain o'er the deep; 
Whose breast is gently heaving 
Like an infant's asleep." 

Having to turn out at twelve, I soon started below; but 
before swinging into my hammock I heard the order to furl 
the royals and send the yards on deck. This startled me, 
for I had not been watching the barometer, as the captain 
had; and I remember, by the same token, that I was then 
enlarging on the beauties of the outlook above, accompa- 
nied by some disparaging remarks about what steamers 
could show, whereupon one of our senior officers, over- 
hearing, called me in, and told me quite affably, and in 
delicate terms, not to make a fool of myself. 

But '^Linden saw another sight," when I returned to the 
deck at midnight; sharp, I am sure, for I held to the some- 
what priggish saying, first devised, I imagine, by some wag 
tired of waiting for his successor, "A prompt relief is the 
pride of a young officer." The quartermaster, w^ho called 
me and left the lantern dimly burning, had conveyed the 
comforting assurance that it looked very bad on deck, and 
the second reef was just taking in the topsails. When I 
got to my station, the former watch was still aloft, tying 
their last reef-points, from which they soon straggled down, 
morosely conscious that they had lost ten minutes of their 

140 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

one watch below, and would have to be on deck again at 
four. The moon was still up, but, as it were, only to em- 
phasize the darkness of the huge cloud masses which scud- 
ded across the sky, with a rapid but steady gait, showing 
that the wind meant business. The new watch was given 
no more time than to wake up and shake themselves. 
They were soon on the yards, taking the third and fourth — 
last — reefs in the fore and main topsails, furling the miz- 
zen, and seeing that the lower sails and topgallant-sails 
were securely rolled up against the burst that was to be 
expected. Before 1.30 a.m. all things were as ready as 
care could make them, and not too soon. The moon was 
sinking, or had sunk; the sky darkened steadily, though not 
beyond that natural to a starless night. In the southwest 
faint gUmmerings of lightning gave warning of what might 
be looked for; but we had used light well while we had it, 
and could now bear what was to come. At 2 p.m. it came 
with a roar and a rush, "butt-end foremost,'' as the saying 
is, preceded by a few huge drops of scurrying rain. 

" When the rain before the wind, 
Topsail sheets and halyards mind;" 

but that was for other conditions than ours. 

A pampero at its ordinary level is no joke; but this was 
the charge of a wild elephant, which would exhaust itself 
soon, but for the nonce was terrific. Pitch darkness set- 
tled down upon the ship. Except in the frequent flashes 
of lightning, literally blue, I could not see the forecastle 
boatswain's mate of the watch, who stood close by my 
elbow, ready pipe in hand. The rain came down in buck- 
ets, and in the midst of all the wind suddenly shifted, 
taking the sails flat aback. The shrillness of the boat- 
swain's pipes is then their great merit. They pierce through 
the roar of the tempest, by sheer difference of pitch, an 
effect one sometimes hears in an opera; and the officer of 

141 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

the deck, our second lieutenant, who bore the name of 
Andrew Jackson, and was said to have received his ap- 
pointment from him — which shows how far back he went — 
had a voice of somewhat the same quality. I had often 
heard it assert itself, winding in and out through the up- 
roar of an ordinary gale, but on this occasion it went clean 
away — whistled down the wind. "I alwa3^s think bad of 
it," said Boatswain Chucks, ^^when the elements won't al- 
low my whistle to be heard; and I consider it hardly fair 
play." Such advantage the elements took of us on this 
occasion, but the captain came to the rescue. He had the 
throat of a bull of Bashan, which went the elements one 
better on their o^ti hand. Under his stentorian shouts 
the weather head-braces were led along (probably already 
had been, as part of the preparation, but that was quarter- 
deck work, outside my knowledge) and mamied. All other 
gear being coiled out of the way, on the pins, there was 
notliing to confuse or entangle; the fore topsail was swung 
round on the opposite tack from the main, a-box, to pay 
the sliip's head off and leave her side to the wind, steadied 
by the close-reefed fore and main topsails, which would 
then be filled. She was now, of course, going astern fast; 
but this mattered nothing, for the sea had not yet got up. 
The evolution, common enough itself, an almost invariable 
accompaniment of getting mider way, was now exciting 
even to grandeur, for we could see only when the benevo- 
lent lightning kindled in the sky a momentary glare of 
noonday. ''Now that's a clever old man," said the boat- 
swain's mate next day to me, approvingly, of the captain; 
'' boxing her off that way, with all that wind and blackness, 
was handsomel)^ done." After this we settled down to a 
two days' pampero, with a huge but regular sea. 

Whether the Coigress's helm on this interesting occasion 
was shifted for sternboard I never inquired. Marryat tells 
us it was a moot point in his yoimg days. Our captain 

142 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

was an excellent seaman, but had 'doxies of his own. Of 
these, one which ran contrary to current standards was in 
favor of clewing up a course or topsail to leeward, in blow- 
ing weather. Among the lieutenants was a strong cham- 
pion of the opposite and accepted dogma, and a messmate 
of mine, in his division and shining by reflected light, was 
always prompt to enforce closure of debate by declaiming : 

"He who seeks the tempest to disarm 
Will never fii-st embrail the lee yard-arm." 

Whether Falconer, besides being a poet, was also an ex- 
pert in seamanship, or whether he simply registered the 
views of his day, may be questioned. The two alterna- 
tives, I fancy, were the chance of splitting the sail, and that 
of springing the yard; and any one who has ever watched 
a big bag of wind whipping a weather yard-arm up and 
down in its bellying struggles, after clewing up to windward, 
will have experienced as eager a desire to call it down as 
he has ever felt to suppress its congener in an after-dinner 
oration. Both are much out of place and time. 

Days of the past! Certainly a watch spent reefing top- 
sails in the rain was less tedious than that everlasting 
bridge of to-day: Tramp! Tramp! or stand still, facing 
the wind blowing the teeth down your throat. Nothing 
to do requiring effort; the engine does all that; but still 
a perpetual strain of attention due to the rapid motion of 
vessels under steam. The very slowness of sailing-ships 
lightened anxiety. In such a gale you might as well be 
anxious in a wheel-chair. And then, when you went be- 
low, you went, not bored, but healthfully tired with active 
exertion of mind and body. Yes ; the sound was sweet then, 
at eight bells, the pipe, pipe, pipe, pipe of the boatswain's 
mates, followed by their gruff voices drawling out, in loud 
sing-song: "A-a-a-all the starboard watch! Come! turn 
out there! Tumble out! Tumble out! Show a leg! Show 

143 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

a leg! On deck there! all the starboard watch!'' When I 
went below that morning with the port watch, at four 
o'clock, I turned over to my relief a forecastle on which 
he would have nothing to do but drink his coffee at day- 

That daylight coffee of the morning watch, chief of its 
charms, need not be described to the many who have ex- 
perienced the difference between the old man and the new 
man of before and after coffee. The galley (kitchen) fire 
of ships of war used to be started at seven bells of the mid- 
watch (3.30 A.M.) ; and the officers, and most of the men, 
who next came on duty, managed to have coffee, the latter 
husbanding their rations to this end. Since those days a 
benevolent regulation has allowed an extra ration of coffee 
to the crew for this purpose, so that no man goes without, 
or works the morning watch on an empty stomach. For 
the morning watch was very busy. Then, on several days 
of the week, the seamen washed their clothes. Then the 
upper deck was daily scrubbed ; sometimes the mere wash- 
ing off the soap-suds left from the clothes, sometimes with 
brooms and sand, sometimes the solemn ceremony of holy- 
stoning \Nith its monotonous musical sound of grinding. 
Along with these, dovetailed in as opportunity offered, 
in a saiUng-ship imder way there went on the work of re- 
adjusting the yards and sails; a pull here and a pull there, 
hke a woman getting herself into shape after sitting too 
long in one position. Yards trimmed to a nicety; the two 
sheets of each sail close home alike ; all the canvas taut up, 
from the weather-tacks of the courses to the weather- 
earings of the royals; no slack weather-braces, or weather- 
leaches, letting a bight of loose canvas sag like an incipient 
double chin. When these and a dozen other httle details 
had remedied the disorders of the night, due to the in- 
variable slacking of cordage under strain, the ship was fit 
for any e3'e to light on, like a conscioas beauty going forth 

144 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

conquering and to conquer. I doubt the crew grumbled 

and d d a little under their breath, for the process was 

tedious; yet it was not only a fad, but necessary, and the 
deck-officer who habitually neglected it might possibly rise 
to an emergency, but was scarcely otherwise worth his 
salt. In my humble judgment, he had better have worn a 
frock-coat unbuttoned. 

Occupation in plenty was not the only solace of a morn- 
ing watch; at least in the trades. While the men were 
washing their clothes, the midshipman of the watch, amid 
the exhilaration of his coffee, and with the cool sea-water 
careering over his bare feet, had ample leisure to watch the 
break of day: the gradual lighting up of the zenith, the 
rosy tints gathering and growing upon the tiny, pearly 
trade-clouds of which I have spoken, the blue of the water 
gradually reveahng itself, laughing with white-caps, like 
the Psalmist's valleys of corn; until at last the sun ap- 
peared, never direct from the sea, but from these white 
cloud banks which extend less than five degrees above it. 
Such a scene presents itself day after day, day after day, 
monotonous but never wearisome, to a vessel running down 
the trades; that is, steering from east to west, with fixed, 
fair breeze, as I have more than once had the happiness to 
do. Then, as the saying was, a fortnight passed without 
touching brace or tack, because no change of wind ; a slight 
exaggeration, for frequent squalls required the canvas to 
be handled, but substantially true in impression. Balmy 
weather and a steady gait, rarely more than seven or eight 
knots — less than two hundred miles a day; but who would 
be in haste to quit such conditions, where the sun rose 
astern daily with the joy of a giant running his course, 
bringing assurance of prosperity, and sank to rest ahead 
smiling, again behind the dimpHng clouds which he tinged 
like mother-of-pearl. 

Such was not our lot in the Congress j for we were bound 

145 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

south, across the trades. This, with some bad luck, brought 
us closehauled, that we might pass the equator nothing to 
the westward of thirty degrees of west longitude ; otherwise 
we might fall to leeward of Cape St. Roque. This ominous 
phrase meant that we might be so far to the westward that 
the southeast trades, when reached, would not let the ship 
pass clear of this easternmost point of Brazil on one stretch; 
that we would strike the coast north of it and have to beat 
round, which actually happened. Consequently we never 
had a fair wind, to set a studding-sail, till we were within 
three or four days of Bahia. This encouraging incident, 
the first of the kind since the ship went into commission, 
also befell in one of my mid-watches, and an awful mess 
our unuse made of it. All the gear seemed to be bent with a 
half-dozen round turns; the stu'nsail-yards went aloft wrong 
end uppermost, dangling in the most extraordinary and 
wholly unmanageable attitudes; everything had to be done 
over and over again, till at last the case looked desperate. 
Finally the lieutenant of the watch came forward in wrath. 
He was a Kentuckian, very competent, ordinarily very 
good-tempered; but there was red in his hair. When he 
got sufficiently near he tucked the speaking-trumpet under 
his arm, where it looked uncommonly like a fat cotton 
umbrella, himself suggesting a farmer inspecting an in- 
tended purchase, and in this posture delivered to us a 
stump speech on our shortcomings. This, I fear, I will 
have to leave to the reader's imagination. It would re- 
quire innumerable dashes, and even so the emphasis would 
be lost. My relief had cause to be pleased that those 
stun'sails were set by four o'clock, when he came on deck. 
Ours the labor, his the reward. 

A few days more saw us in Bahia; and with our arrival 
on the station began a round of duties and enjoyments 
which made life at twenty pleasant enough, both in the 

146 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

passage and in retrospect, but which scarcely afford ma- 
terial for narration. Our two chief ports, Rio de Janeiro 
and Montevideo, were then remote and provincial. They 
have become more accessible and modern; but at the time 
of my last visit — already over thirty years ago — they had 
lost in local color and particular attraction as much as they 
had gained in convenience and development. Street-cars, 
double-ended American ferry-boats, electric lights, and all 
the other things for which these stand, are doubtless good ; 
but they make places seem less strange and so less interest- 
ing. But I suppose there must still be in the business 
streets that pervading odor of rum and sugar which tells that 
you are in the tropics ; still there must be the delicious hot 
calm of the early morning, before the sea-breeze sets in, 
the fruit-laden boats plying over the still waters to the 
ships of war; still that brilliant access of life and animation 
which comes sparkling in with the sea-breeze, and which can 
be seen in the offing, approaching, long before it enters the 
bay. The balance of better and worse will be variously es- 
timated by various minds. The magnificent scenery of Rio 
remains, and must remain, short of earthquake; the Sugar 
Loaf, the distant Organ mountains, the near, high, sur- 
rounding hills, the numerous bights and diversified bluffs, 
which impart continuous novelty to the prospect. It is 
surprising that in these days of travel more do not go just 
to see that sight, even if they never put foot on shore; 
though I would not commend the omission. I see, too, in 
the current newspapers, that Secretary Root has attrib- 
uted to the women of Uruguay to-day the charm which 
we youngsters then found in those who are now their grand- 
m(jj:hers. As Mr. Secretary cannot be very far from my 
own age, we have here the mature confirmation of an im- 
pression which otherwise might be attributed to the facility 
of youth. 

An interesting, though not very important, reminiscence 

147 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

of things now passed away was the coming and going of 
numerous vessels, usually small, carrying the commercial 
flags of the Hanse cities, Bremen, Hamburg, and Lubeck, 
now superseded on the ocean by that of the German Em- 
pire. Scarcely a morning watch which did not see in its 
earlier hours one or more of these stealing out of port with 
the tail of the land breeze. These remnants of the " Easter- 
lings," a term which now survives only in "sterling," were 
mostly small brigs of some two hundred tons, noticeable 
mainly for their want of sheer ; that is, their rails, and pre- 
sumably their decks, were level, without rise at the ex- 
tremities such as most vessels show. 

Up to the middle of the last century, Rio, thanks prob- 
ably to its remoteness, had escaped the yellow-fever. But 
the soil and climate were propitious; and about 1850 it 
made good a footing which it never relinquished. At the 
time of our cruise it was endemic, and we consequently 
spent there but two or three months of the cooler season, 
June to September. Even so, visiting the city was per- 
mitted to only a few selected men of the foremast hands. 
The habits of the seamen were still those of a generation 
before, and drink, with its consequent reckless exposure, 
was a right-hand man to Yellow Jack. All shore indulgence 
was confined to Montevideo, where we spent near half of 
the year; and being limited to one or two occasions only, of 
two or three days duration each, it was signalized by those 
excesses which, in conjunction with the absence of half 
the crew at once, put an end to all ordinary routine and 
drill on board. My friend, the captain of the forecastle, 
who apprehended that the Southern leaders would lose 
their property, a self-respecting, admirably behaved man 
in ordinary times, was usually hoisted on board by a tackle 
when he returned; for Montevideo affords only an open 
roadstead for big ships, and frequently a rough sea. The 
story ran that he secured a room on going ashore, provided 

148 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

for the safety of his money, bought a box of gin, and went 
to bed. This I never verified; but I remember a nautical 
philosopher among the crew enlarging, in my hearing, on 
the folly of drink. To its morality he was indifferent; but 
from sad experience he avouched that it incapacitated you 
for other enjoyments, regular and irregular, and that he 
for one should quit. To-day things are changed — revolu- 
tionized. There may be ports too sickly to risk lives in; 
but the men to be selected now are the few who cannot 
be trusted, the percentage which every society contains. 
This result will be variously interpreted. Some will at- 
tribute it to the abolition of the grog ration, the removal 
of temptation, a change of environment. Others will say 
that the extension of frequent leave, and consequent oppor- 
tunity, has abolished the frenzied inclination to make the 
most — not the best — of a rare chance; has renewed men 
from within. Personally, I believe the last. Together 
with the gradual rise of tone throughout society, rational 
liberty among seamen has resulted in rational indulgence. 
"Better England free than England sober." 

In the end it was from Montevideo that we sailed for 
home in June, 1861. During the preceding six months, 
mail after mail brought us increasing ill tidings of the 
events succeeding the election of Lincoln. Somewhere 
within that period a large American steamboat, of the 
type then used on Long Island Sound, arrived in the La 
Plata for passenger and freight service between Mon- 
tevideo and Buenos Ayres. Her size and comfort, her 
extensive decoration and expanses of gold and white, un- 
known hitherto, created some sensation, and gave abun- 
dant supply to local paragr aphis ts. Her captain was a 
Southerner, and his wife also; of male and female types. 
He commented to me briefly, but sadly, "Yes, we have 
now two governments '^* but she was all aglow. Never 
would she lay down arms; M. Ollivier's light heart was 

149 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

"not in it'^ with hers; her countenance shone with joy, 
except when clouded with contempt for the craven ac- 
tion of the Star of the West, a merchant-steamer with sup- 
plies for Fort Sumter which had turned back before the 
fire of the Charleston batteries. Never could she have 
done such a thing. What influence women wield, and how 
irresponsible! And they want votes! 

In feeling, most of us stood where this captain did, sor- 
rowful, perplexed; but in feeling only, not in purpose. We 
knew not which became us most, grief, or stern satisfac- 
tion that at last a doubtful matter was to be settled by 
arms; but, with one or two exceptions, there was no hesi- 
tancy, I believe, on the part of the officers as to the side 
each should take. There were four pronounced Southern- 
ers: two of them messmates of mine, from New Orleans. 
The other two were the captain and lieutenant of marines. 
None of these was extreme, except the captain, whom, 
though well on in middle life, I have seen stamp up and 
down raging with excitement. On one occasion, so violent 
was his language that I said to him he would do well to 
put ice to his head; an impertinence, considering our 
relative ages, but almost warranted. I think that he pos- 
sibly took over the lieutenant, who was from a border 
State, and, hke the midshipmen, rather sobered than en- 
thusiastic at the prospects; though these last had no 
doubts as to their own course. There was also a sea lieu- 
tenant from the South, who said to me that if his State 
was fool enough to secede, she might go, for him; he would 
not fight against her, but he would not follow her. I 
believe he did escape having to fight in her waters, but he 
was in action on the Union side elsewhere, and, I expect, 
revised this decision. This halting allegiance, thinking 
to serve two masters, was not frequent; but there were 
instances. Of one such I knew. He told me himself that 
he on a certain occasion had said in company that he would 

150 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

not leave the navy, but would try for employment out- 
side the country; whereon an officer standing by said to 
him that that appeared a pretty shabby thing, to take pay 
and dodge duty. The remark sank deep; he changed his 
mind, and served with great gallantry. It seems to me 
now almost an impiety to record, but, knowing my father's 
warm love for the South, I hazarded to the marine captain 
a doubt as to his position. He. replied that there could be 
no doubt whatever. "All your father's antecedents are 
military; there is no military spirit in the North; he must 
come to us." Many Southerners, not by any means most, 
had formed such impressions. 

The remainder of the officers were not so much North- 
ern as Union, a distinction which meant much in the feel- 
ing that underlies action. Our second lieutenant, with so- 
berer appreciation of conditions than the marine, said to 
me, " I cannot understand how those others expect to win 
in the face of the overpowering resources of the Northern 
States." The leaders of the Confederacy, too, understood 
this; and while I am sure that expected dissension in the 
North, and interference from Europe, counted for much 
in their complicated calculations, I imagine that the 
marine's overweighted theory, of incompatibility between 
the mercantile and military temperaments, also entered 
largely. My Kentuckian expressed the characteristic, if 
somewhat crude, opinion, that the two had better fight 
it out now, till one was well licked; after which his head 
should be punched and he be told to be decent hereafter. 
We had, however, one Northern fire-eater among the mid- 
shipmen. He was a plucky fellow, but with an odd cast to 
his eyes and a slight malformation, which made his ec- 
stasies of wrath a little comical. His denunciations of all 
half measures, or bounded sentiments, quite equalled those 
of the marine officer on the other side. If the two had been 
put into the same ring, little could have been left but a 

151 



FROM SAIL TO STEAI\1 

few rags of clothes, so completely did they lose their heads; 
but, as often happens with such champions, their harangues 
descended mostly on quiet men, conveniently known as 
doughfaces. 

Doughfaces I suppose we must have been, if the term 
applied fitly to those who, between the alternatives of dis- 
solving the Union and fighting one another, were longing 
to see some third way open out of the dilemma. In this 
sense Lincoln, with his life-long record of opposition to the 
extension of slavery, was a doughface. The marine could 
afford to harden his face, because he believed there would 
be no war — the North would not fight; while the midship- 
man, rather limited intellectually, was happy in a mental 
constitution which could see but one side of a case; an ele- 
ment of force, but not of conciliation. The more reflective 
of my two Southern messmates, a man mature beyond his 
years, said to me sadly, " I suppose there will be bloodshed 
beyond what the world has known for a long time;" but 
he naturally shared the prevalent opinion — so often dis- 
proved — that a people resolute as he believed his own 
could not be conquered, especially by a commercial com- 
munity — the proverbial "nation of shopkeepers." Na- 
poleon once had believed the same, to his ruin. Commer- 
cial considerations undoubtedly weigh heavily; but happily 
sentiment is still stronger than the dollar. An amusing 
instance of the pocket influence, however, came to my 
knowledge at the moment. Our captain^s son received 
notice of his appointment as lieutenant of marines, and 
sailed for home in an American merchant-brig shortly be- 
fore the news came of the firing on Fort Sumter. When I 
next met him in the United States, he told me that the 
brig's captain had been quite warmly Southern in feeling 
during the passage; but when they reached home, and 
found that Confederate privateers had destroyed some mer- 
chant-vessels, he went entirely over. He had no use for 

152 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

people who would ^^rob a poor man of his ship and 
cargo." 

Our orders home, and tidings of the attack on Fort 
Sumter, came by the same mail, some time in June. 
There were then no cables. The revulsion of feeling was 
immediate and universal, in that distant community and 
foreign land, as it had been two months before in the 
Northern States. The doughfaces were set at once, like 
a flint. The grave and reverend seigniors, resident mer- 
chants, who had checked any belligerent utterance among 
us with reproachful regret that an American should be 
willing to fight Americans, were converted or silenced. 
Every voice but one was hushed, and that voice said, 
" Fight. '^ I remember a tempestuous gathering, an even- 
ing or two before we sailed, and one middle-aged invalid's 
excited but despondent wish that he was five hundred men. 
Such ebullitions are common enough in history, for causes 
bad or good. They are to be taken at their true worth; 
not as a dependable pledge of endurance to the end, but 
as an awakening, which differs from that of common times 
as the blast of the trumpet that summoned men at mid- 
night for Waterloo differs from the lazy rubbing of the 
eyes before thrusting one's neck into the collar of a work- 
ing day. The North was roused and united ; a result which 
showed that, wittingly or unwittingly, the Union leaders 
had so played the cards in their hands as to score the first 
trick. 

Our passage home was tedious but uneventful. I re- 
member only the incident that .the flag-officer on one occa- 
sion played at old-time warfare of his youth, by showing 
to a passing vessel a Spanish flag instead of the American. 
The common ship life went on as though nothing had hap- 
pened. On an August evening w^e anchored in Boston 
lower harbor, and Mr. Robert Forbes, then a very promi- 
nent character in Boston, and in most nautical matters 

153 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

throughout the country, came down in a pilot-boat, bring- 
ing newspapers to our captain, with whom he was intimate. 
Then we first learned of Bull Run; arid properly mortified 
we of the North were, not having yet acquired that indif- 
ference to a licking which is one of the first steps towards 
success. Some time after the war was over an army 
officer of the North repeated to me the comment on this 
affair made to him by a Southern acquaintance, both being 
of the aforetime regular army. '^I never,^' he said, "saw 
men as frightened as ours were — except yours." The after 
record of both parties takes all the sting out of these words, 
without lessening the humor. 

Immediately upon arrival, the oath of allegiance was 
tendered, and, of course, refused by our four Southerners. 
They had doubtless sent in their resignations; but by that 
time resignations were no longer accepted, and in the 
following Navy Register they appeared as "dismissed.'* 
They were arrested on board the ship and taken as prisoners 
to Fort Lafayette. I never again saw any of them; but 
from time to time heard decisively of the deaths of all, 
save the lieutenant of marines. One of the midshipmen 
drew from my father an action which I have delighted to 
recall as characteristic. He wrote from the fort, stating 
his comradeship with me in the past, and asking if he could 
be furnished with certain military reading, for his improve- 
ment and to pass time. Though suspicions of loyalty were 
rife, and in those days easily started by the most trivial 
communication, the books were sent. The war had but 
just ended, when one morning my father received a letter 
expressing thanks, and enclosing money to the supposed 
value of the books. The money was returned ; but I, hap- 
pening to be at home, rephed on my own account in such 
manner as a very young man would. My father saw the 
addressed envelope, and remonstrated. "Do you think it 
quite well and prudent to associate yourself, at your age 

154 



FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION 

and rank, with one so recently in rebellion? Will it not 
injure your standing?" I was not convinced; but I yield- 
ed to a solicitude which under much more hazardous con- 
ditions he had not admitted for himself, though known to 
be a Virginian. Shortly after his death, while our sorrow 
was still fresh, I met a contemporary and military intimate 
of his. "I want," he said, "to tell you an anecdote of 
your father. We were associated on a board, one of the 
members of which had proposed, as his own suggestion, a 
measure which I thought fundamentally and dangerously 
erroneous. I prepared a paper contesting the project and 
took it to your father. He read it carefully, and replied, 

'I agree with you entirely; but will never forgive you, 

and he is persistent and unrelenting towards those who 
thwart him. You will make a life-long and powerful enemy. 
If I were you, I should not lay this upon myself.' I gave 
way to his judgment, and kept back the paper; but you may 
imagine my surprise when at the next meeting he took 
upon himself the burden which he had advised me to shun. 
He made an argument substantially on my lines, and pro- 
cured the rejection of the proposition. The result was a 
hostihty which ceased only with his life, but between which 
and me he had interposed.'* 



VII 

INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE 

1861—1862 

The Congress, upon her return, was retained in com- 
mission, though entirely useless, either for fighting or block- 
ade, under modern conditions. I suppose there were not 
yet enough of newer vessels to spare her value as a fig- 
ure-head. She was sent afterwards to Hampton Roads, 
where in the following March she, with another sailing- 
frigate, the Cumberland, fell helpless victims to the first 
Confederate iron-clad. The staff of combatant sea oflficers 
was much changed; the captain, the senior three lieuten- 
ants, and the midshipmen being detached. Smith, the 
fourth lieutenant, remained as first ; and, in the absence of 
her captain on other duty, commanded and fell at her 
death agony. I was sent first to the James Adger, a pas- 
senger-steamer then being converted in New York for 
blockade duty, for which she was very fit; but in ten days 
more I was moved on to the Pocahontas, a ship built for 
war, a very respectable little steam-corvette, the only one 
of her class — if such a bull as a class of one may be excused. 
She carried one ten-inch gun and four 32-pounders, all 
smooth-bores. There was, besides, one small nondescript 
rifled piece, upon which we looked with more curiosity 
than confidence. Indeed, unless memory deceive, the pro- 
jectiles from it were quite as apt to go end over end as 
true. It was rarely used. 

When I joined, the Pocahontas was lying off the Wash- 

156 



INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE 

ington Navy- Yard, in the eastern branch of the Potomac, 
on duty connected with the patrol of the river; the Vir- 
ginia bank of which was occupied by the Confederates, who 
were then erecting batteries to dispute the passage of 
vessels. After one excursion down-stream in this employ- 
ment, the ship was detached to the combined expedition 
against Port Royal, South CaroHna, the naval part of 
which was under the command of "Flag-Officer" Dupont. 
The point of assembly was Hampton Roads, whither we 
shortly proceeded, after filhng with stores and receiving 
a new captain, Percival Drayton, a man greatly esteemed 
in the service of the day, and a South-Carolinian. Coin- 
cidently with us, but independently as to association, the 
steam-sloop Seminole, slightly larger, also started. We 
outstripped her; and as we passed a position where the 
Confederates were believed to be fortifying, our captain 
threw in a half-dozen shells. No reply was made, and we 
went on. Within a half-hour we heard firing behind us, 
apparently two-sided. The ship was turned round and 
headed up-river. In a few minutes we met the Seminole^ 
her men still at the guns, a few ropes dangling loose, show- 
ing that she had, as they say, not been exchanging salutes. 
We had stirred up the hornets, and she had got the benefit; 
quite uselessly, her captain evidently felt, by his glum face 
and short answers to our solicitous hail. He was naturally 
put out, for no good could have come, beyond showing the 
position of the enemy's guns; while an awkward hit might 
have sent her back to the yard and lost her her share in 
the coming fray, one of the earliest in the war, and at that 
instant the only thing in sight on the naval horizon. As 
no harm resulted, the incident would not be worth men- 
tioning except for a second occasion, which I will mention 
later, in which we gave the Seminole^s captain cause for 
grim dissatisfaction. 
The gathering of the clans, the ships of war and the trans- 

157 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

ports laden with troops, in the lower Chesapeake had of 
course a strange element of excitement; for war, even in 
its incipiency, was new to almost all present, and the en- 
thusiasm aroused by a great cause and approaching con- 
flict was not balanced by that solemnizing outlook which 
experience gives. We lived in an atmosphere of blended 
exaltation and curiosity, of present novelty and glowing 
expectation. But business soon came upon us, in its or- 
dinary lines; for we were not two days clear of the Capes, 
in early November, when there came on a gale of excep- 
tional violence, the worst of it at midnight. It lasted for 
forty-eight hours, and must have occasioned great anxiety 
to the heads of the expedition; for among the curious 
conglomerate of heterogeneous material constituting both 
the ships of war and transports there were several river 
steamers, some of them small. Being utterly unpractised 
in such movements, an almost entire dispersal followed; 
in fact, I dare say many of the transport captains asked 
nothing better than to be out of other people's way. The 
Pocahontas found herself alone next morning; but, though 
small and slow, she was a veritable sea-bird for wind and 
wave. Not so all. One of our extemporized ships of war, 
rejoicing in the belligerent name of Isaac Smith j and carry- 
ing eight fairly heavy guns, which would have told in still 
water, had to throw them all overboard ; and her share in the 
subsequent action was limited to a single long piece, rifled 
I believe, and to towing a sailing-corvette in the column. 
There were some wrecks and some gallant rescues, the 
most conspicuous of which was that of the battalion of 
marines, embarked on board the Governor; a steamer, as 
I recollect, not strictly of the river order, but like those 
which ply outside on the Boston and Maine coast. She 
went down, but not before her living freight had been re- 
moved by the sailing-frigate Sabine. The first lieutenant 
of the latter, now the senior rear-admiral on the retired list 

158 



INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCI^DE SERVICE 

of the navy, soon afterwards relieved Drayton in command 
of the Pocahontas; so that I then heard at first hand many 
particulars which I wish I could now repeat in his well- 
deserved honor. His distinguished share in the rescue was 
of common notoriety; the details only we learned from 
his modest but interesting account. The deliverance was 
facilitated by the two vessels being on soundings. The 
Governor anchored, and then the Sabine ahead of her, 
dropping down close to. The ground-tackle of our naval 
ships, as we abundantly tested during the war, would hold 
through anything, if the bottom let the anchor grip. 

With very few exceptions all were saved, officers and 
privates; but their clothes, except those they stood in, were 
left behind. The colonel was a notorious martinet, as well 
as something of a character; and a story ran that one of the 
subalterns had found himself at the start unable to appear 
in some detail of uniform, his trunks having gone astray. 
"A good soldier never separates from his baggage," said 
the colonel, gruffly, on hearing the excuse. After various 
adventures, common to missing personal effects, the lieu- 
tenant's trunks tiu'ned up at Port Royal. He looked 
sympathetically at the coloneFs shorn plumes and meagre 
array, and said, reproachfully, "Colonel, where are your 
trunks? A good soldier should never separate from his 
baggage." But, doubtless, to follow it to the bottom of 
the sea would be an excess of zeal. 

Not long afterwards I was shipmate with an assistant 
surgeon who had been detailed for duty on board the 
Governor, and had passed through the scenes of anxiety 
and confusion preceding the rescue. He told me one or 
two amusing incidents. An order being given to lighten 
the ship, four marines ran into the cabin where he was 
lying, seized a marble-top table, dropped the marble top 
on deck, and threw the wooden legs overboard. There 
was also on board a very young naval officer, barely out of 

159 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

the Academy. He was of Dutch blood and name — from 
central Pennsylvania, I think. Although without much 
experience, he was of the constitutionally self-possessed or- 
der, which enabled him to be very useful. After a good 
deal of exertion, he also came into the cabin. The surgeon 
asked him how things looked. " I think she will last about 
half an hour," he replied, and then composedly lay down 
and went to sleep. 

There was in the hero of this anecdote a vein of eccen- 
tricity even then, and he eventually died insane and young. 
I knew him only slightly, but famiharly as to face. He 
had mild blue eyes and curly brown hair, with a constant 
half-smile in eyes as well as mouth. In temperament he 
was Dutch to the backbone — at least as w^e imagine Dutch. 
A comical anecdote was told me of him a few years later, 
illustrating his self-possession — cool to impudence. He was 
serving on one of our big steam-sloops, a flag-ship at the 
time, and had charge of working the cables on the gun- 
deck when anchoring. Going into a port where the water 
was very deep — Rio de Janeiro, I believe — the chain cables 
"got away,", as the expression is; control was lost, and 
shackle after shackle tore out of the hawse-holes, leaping 
and thumping, ratthng and roaring, stirring a lot of dust 
besides. Indeed, the violent friction of iron against iron 
in such cases not infrequently generates a stream of sparks. 
The weight of twenty fathoms of this linked iron mass 
hanging outside, aided by the momentum already estab- 
lished by the anchor's fall through a hundred feet, of course 
drags after it all that lies unstoppered within. I need not 
tell those who have witnessed such a commotion that the 
orderly silence of a ship of war breaks down somewhat. 
Every one who has any right to speak shouts, and repeats, 
in rapid succession, " Haul-to that chain ! Why the some- 
thing or other don't you haul-to?" while the unhappy com- 
pressor-men, saving their own wind to help their arms, 

160 



INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE 

struggle wildly with the situation, under a storm of obloquy. 
The admiral — by this time we had admirals — was a singu- 
lar man, something of a lawyer, acute, tliinking he knew 
just how far he might go in any case, and given at times 
to taking liberties with subordinates, which were not to 
them always as humorous as they seemed to him. In this 
instance he miscalculated somewhat. He was on deck at 
the moment, and when the chain had been at last stopped 
and secured, he said to the captain, " Alfred, send for the 
young man in charge of those chains, and give him a good 
setting-down. Ask him what he means by letting such 
things happen. Ride him down Hke a main- tack, Alfred — 
like the main-tack!" The main- tack is the chief rope con- 
trolling the biggest sail in the ship, and at times, close on 
the wind, it has to be got down into place by the brute 
force of half a hundred men, inch by inch, pull by pull. 
That is called riding down, and is clearly a process the 
reverse of conciliatory. The Dutchman was sent for, and 
soon his questioning blue eyes appeared over the hatch 
coaming. Alfred — as my o^vn name is Alfred, I may ex- 
plain that I was not that captain — Alfred was a mild per- 
son, and clearly did not hke his job; he could not have 
come up to the admiral's standard. The latter saw it, and 
intervened: "Perhaps you had better leave it to me. I'll 
settle him." Fixing his eyes on the offender, he said, stern- 
ly, "What do you mean by this, sir? Why the h — 1 did 
you not stop that chain?" This exordium was doubtless 
the prelude to a fit oratorical display ; but the culprit, look- 
ing quietly at him, replied, simply, " How the h — 1 could 
I?" This was a shift of wind for which the admiral was 
unprepared. He was taken flat back, Hke a screaming 
child receiving a glass of cold water in his face. After a 
moment's hesitation he turned to the captain, and said 
meekly, yet with evident humorous consciousness of a 
checkmate, "That's true, Alfred; how the h — 1 could he?" 

161 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

Still, while the defence implied in the lieutenant's ques- 
tion is logically unimpeachable, it does not follow that the 
method of the admiral — as distinct from his manner, which 
need not be excused — was irrational. The impulse of rep- 
rimand, applied at the top, where ultimate responsibiUty 
rests, is transmitted through the intervening links down to 
the actual culprits, and takes effect for future occasions. 
As Marryat in one of his amusing passages says : " The mas- 
ter's violence made the boatswain violent, which made the 
boatswain's mate violent, and the captain of the forecastle 
also; all which is practically exemplified by the laws of 
motion communicated from one body to another; and as 
the master swore, so did the boatswain swear, and the boat- 
swain's mate, and the captain of the forecastle, and all the 
men." An entertaining practical use of this transmission 
of energy was made by an acquaintance of mine in China. 
Going to bed one night, he found himself annoyed by a 
mosquito w^ithin the net. He got up, provided himself 
with the necessities for his own comfort during the period 
of discomfort which he projected for others, and called the 
servant whose business it was to have crushed the in- 
truder. Him he sent in search of the man next above him, 
him in turn for another, and so on until he reached the 
head of the domestic hierarchy. When the whole body was 
assembled, he told them that they were summoned to re- 
ceive the information that "one piecee mosquito" was in- 
side his net, owing to the neglect of — pointing to the cul- 
prit. This done, they were dismissed, in calm assurance 
that in future no mosquito would disturb his night's rest, 
and that the desirable castigation of the offender might 
be intrusted to his outraged companions. 

After the gale subsided, the Pocahontas proceeded for 
the rendezvous, just before reaching which we fell in with a 
coal-schooner. Though a good fighting-ship, she carried 
only sixty-three tons of coal, anthracite; for that alone 

162 



INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE 

we then used to burn. The amount seems too absurd for 
behef, and it constituted a very serious embarrassment on 
such duty as that of the South Carohna and Georgia coasts. 
To economize, so as to remain as long as possible away from 
the base at Port Royal, and yet to have the ship ready for 
speedy movement, was a difficult problem; indeed, insolu- 
ble. We used to meet it by keeping fires so low, when 
lying inside the blockaded rivers, that we could not move 
promptly. This was a choice between evils, which the 
event justified, but which might have been awkward had 
the Confederates ever made a determined attempt at board- 
ing with largely superior force in several steamers, as hap- 
pened at Galveston, and once even by pulling boats in a 
Georgia river. Under steam, the battery could be handled ; 
anchored, an enemy could avoid it. With this poor " coal 
endurance," as the modern expression has it, the captain 
decided to fill up as he could. We therefore took the 
schooner in tow, and were transferring from her, when the 
sound of cannonading was heard. Evidently the attack 
had begun, and it was incumbent to get in, not only on 
general principles, but for the captain's own reputation; 
for although in service he was too well known to be doubted, 
the outside world might see only that he was a South Caro- 
linian. It was recognition of this, I doubt not, that led 
Admiral Dupont, when we passed the flag-ship after the 
action, to hail aloud, " Captain Drayton, I knew you would 
be here;" a public expression of official confidence. We 
were late, however, as it was; probably because our short 
coal supply had compelled economical steaming, though 
as to this my memory is uncertain. The Pocahontas 
passed the batteries after the main attack, in column on 
an elHptical course, had ceased, but before the works 
had been abandoned; pnd being alone we received pro- 
portionate attention for the few moments of passage. 
The enemy's fire was "good line, but high;" our main- 

163 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

mast was irreparably wounded, but the hull and crew 
escaped. 

After the action there followed the usual scene of jolli- 
fication. The transports had remained outside, and now 
steamed up; bands playing, troops hurrahing, and with the 
general expenditure of wind from vocal organs which seems 
the necessary concomitant of such occasions. And here 
the Pocahontas again brought the Seminole to grief. She 
had anchored, but we kept under way, steaming about 
through the throng. Drayton had binoculars in hand; 
and, while himself conning the ship, was livelily interested 
in what was passing around. I believe also that, though 
an unusually accomplished officer professionally, he had 
done a good deal of staff duty; had less than the usual 
deck habit of his period. Besides, men used mostly to 
sails seemed to think steamers could get out of any scrape 
at any moment. However that be, after a glance to see 
that we were rightly headed for a clear opening, he began 
gazing about through his glasses, to the right hand and to 
the left. ^He had lost thought of the tide, and in such 
circumstances as ours a very few seconds does the business. 
When he next looked, we were sweeping down on the Sem- 
inole without a chance of retreat; there was nothing but 
to go ahead fast, and save the hulls at least from collision. 
Her flying jib-boom came in just behind our main-mast 
(we had only two masts); and as the current of course 
was setting us down steadily, the topping-lifts of our huge 
main boom caught her jib-boom. Down came one of the 
big blocks from our masthead, narrowly missing the cap- 
tain's head, while we took out of her all the head booms 
as far as the bowsprit cap, leaving them dragging in help- 
less confusion by her side. Then we anchored. 

It is a nuisance to have to clear a wreck and repair 
damages; and the injured party does not immediately re- 
cover his equanimity after such a mishap, especially com- 

164 



INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE 

ing fresh upon a former instance of trouble occasioned bare- 
ly a fortnight before. But after a victory all things are 
forgiven, and the more so to a man of Drayton's well-de- 
served popularity. A little later in the day he went on 
board the flag-ship to visit the admiral. When I met him 
at the gangway upon his return, I had many questions 
to ask, and among others, "Have you learned who com- 
manded the enemy?" "Yes," he replied, with a half- 
smile; "it was my brother." 

Very soon afterwards he left us, before we again quitted 
port. He was dissatisfied with the Pocahontas, partly on 
account of her coal supply; and the captain of the Pawnee 
then going home, he obtained command of her. The 
Pawnee was sui generis; in this like the Pocahontas, only a 
good deal more so, representing somebody's fad. I can- 
not vouch for the details of her construction; but, as I 
heard, she was not only extremely broad in the beam, giv- 
ing great battery space, — which was plain to see, — but the 
bilge on each side was reported to come lower than the 
keel, making, as it were, two hulls, side by side, so that a 
sarcastic critic remarked, "One good point about her is, 
that if she takes the ground, her keel at least is protected." 
Like all our vessels at that time, she was of wood. Owing to 
her build, she had for her tonnage very light draught and 
heavy battery, and so was a capital fighting-ship in still, 
shoal waters; but in a seaway she rolled so rapidly as to be 
a wretched gun platform. Her first lieutenant assured me 
that in heavy weather a glass of water could not get off the 
table. "Before it has begun to sUde on one roll, she is 
back on the other, and catches it before it can start." This 
description was perhaps somewhat picturesque — impres- 
sionist, as we now say; but it successfully conveyed the 
idea, the object of all speech and impressions. However 
satisfactory for glasses — not too full — it may be imagined 
that under such conditions it would be difficult to draw 

165 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

sight on a target between rolls. Whatever her defects, the 
Pawnee was admirably adapted for the inland work of 
which there was much in those parts, behind the sea isl- 
ands; and she continued so employed throughout the war. 
I met her there as late as the last six months of it. But 
she was not reproduced, and remains to memory only; an 
incident of the speculative views and doubting progresses 
of the decade before the War of Secession. 

Drayton's successor was one of the senior lieutenants of 
the fleet, George B. Balch, late the first of the Sabine frigate. 
His services in saving the people of the Governor have al- 
ready been mentioned. He still survives in venerable old 
age; but Drayton, who later on was with Farragut at 
Mobile, being captain of the flag-ship Hartford and chief of 
staff at the time of the passage of the forts, was cut off 
prematurely by a short illness within six months after hos- 
tilities ended. Balch remained with us till the Pocahontas 
returned North, ten months later. He was an officer of 
varied service, and like all such, some more, some less, 
abounded in anecdote of his own experiences. A great deal 
that might be instructive, and more still that is entertain- 
ing, is lost by our slippery memories and the rarity of the 
journal-keeping habit. I remember distinctly only two 
of his stories. One related to a matter which now belongs 
to naval archaeology, — "backing and filhng in a tideway,'' 
by a ship under sail. In this, in a winding channel, the ship 
sets towards her destination with the current, up or down, 
carrying only enough canvas, usually the three topsails, 
to be under control; to move her a little ahead, or a little 
astern, keeping in the strength of the stream, or shifting' 
position as conditions of the navigation require. Backing 
is a term which explains itself; filling applies to the sails 
when so trimmed as to move the vessel ahead. Sometimes 
a reach of the river permits the sails to be braced full, and 
she bowls along merrily under way; anon a turn comes where 

166 



INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCIvADE SERVICE 

she can only lie across, balanced as to headway by the main 
topsail aback. Then the smallest topsail, the mizzen, has 
a game in its hands. The ship, as she drifts up or down, 
may need to be moved a little astern, more or less, to avoid 
a shoal or what not; and to do this the sail mentioned is 
braced either to shake, neutralizing it, or to bring it also 
aback, as the occasion demands. This rather long pre- 
amble is perilously like explaining a joke, but it is neces- 
sary. Balch had seen a good deal of this work in China, 
and he told us that the Chinese pilot's expression, if he 
wanted the sail shaken, was "Makee sick the mizzen top- 
sail;" but if aback, he added, "Kill him dead." I wonder 
does that give us an insight into the nautical idiom of the 
Chinese, who within the limitations of their needs are prime 
seamen. 

By the time I got to China, two years after the War of 
Secession, steam had relieved naval vessels from backing 
and fining. I once, however, saw the principle applied to 
a steamer in the Paraguay River. We were returning 
from a visit to Asuncion, and had a local pilot, who was 
needed less for the Paraguay, which though winding is 
fairly clear, than for the Parana, the lower stream, which 
finally merges in the Rio de la Plata and is constantly 
changing its bed. We had anchored for the night just 
above a bend, head of course up-stream, for the tide does 
not reach so far. The next morning the pilot was bothered 
to turn her round, for she was a long paddle steamer, not 
very handy. He seemed to be in a nautical quandary, 
similar to that which the elder Mr. Weller described as 
" being on the wrong side of the road, backing into the 
palings, and all manner of unpleasantness." The captain 
watched him fuming for a few minutes, and then said, 
"Is there any particular trouble on either hand, or is it 
only the narrowness?" The pilot said no; the bottom 
was clear. "Well," said the captain, "why not cast her 

167 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

to port, and let her drift till she heads fair for the turn be- 
low ?'' This was done easily, and indeed was one of those 
tilings which would be almost foolishly simple did we not 
all have experience of overlooking expedients that lie im- 
mediately under our noses. 

Balch's other story which I recall was at the moment 
simply humorous, but has since seemed to me charged 
with homely wisdom of wide application. He had made 
a rather longish voyage in a merchant-steamer, and during 
it used to amuse himself doing navigation work in com- 
pany with her master, or mate. On one occasion a dis- 
cussion arose between them as to some result, and Balch 
in the course of the argument said, "Figures won't lie." 
"Yes, that's all right," rejoined the other, "figures won't 
lie, if you work them right; but you must work them right, 
Mr. Balch." I was too young then to have noted a some- 
what similar remark about statistics; and I think now, 
after a pretty long observation of mankind, its records 
and its statements, that I should be inclined to extend that 
old seaman's comments to facts also. Facts won't lie, if 
you work them right; but if you work them wrong, a lit- 
tle disproportion in the emphasis, a slight exaggeration of 
color, a little more or less hmelight on this or that part 
of the grouping, and the result is not truth, even though 
each individual fact be as unimpeachable as the multiplica- 
tion table. 

After the capture of Port Royal, and the establishment 
there of the naval base, and until the arrival of monitors 
a year later, operations of the South Atlantic Blockading 
Squadron, as it was styled, were confined to blockading. 
This took two principal forms. The fortifications of 
Charleston and Savannah being still in the hands of the 
enemy, and intact, these two chief seaports of that coast 
were unassailable by our fleet. Even after Fort Sumter 
had been battered to a shapeless heap of masonry, and 

168 



INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE 

Fort Pulaski had surrendered, neither city fell until Sher- 
man's march took it in the rear. But the numerous in- 
lets were substantially undefended against naval attack; 
and for them the blockade, that tremendously potent in- 
strument of the national pressure, the work of which has 
been too little commemorated, was instituted almost uni- 
versally within. Even Fort Pulaski, before its fall, though 
it sealed the highway to Savannah, could not prevent the 
Union vessels from occupying the inside anchorage off 
Tybee Island, completely closing the usual access from 
the sea to the town. During the ensuing ten months 
there were very few of these entrances, from Georgetown, 
the northernmost in South Carolina, down to Fernandina, 
in Florida, into which the Pocahontas did not penetrate, 
alone or in company. I do not know whether people in 
other parts of the country realize that these various inlets 
are connected by an inside navigation, behind the sea 
islands, as they are called, the whole making a system of 
sheltered intercommunication. The usefulness of this was 
reinforced by the numerous navigable rivers which afford 
water roads to the interior, and gave a vessel, once entered, 
refuge beyond the reach of the blockaders' armx, with ready 
means for distribution. Such a gift of nature to a com- 
munity, however, has the defects of its qualities. Ease of 
access, and freedom of movement in all directions, now 
existed for foe as it had for friend, and the very facility 
which such surroundings bestow had prevented the timely 
creation of an alternative. Deprival consequently was 
doubly severe. 

It thus came to pass that, by a gradual process of elimina- 
tion, blockade in the usual sense of the word, blockade 
outside, became confined to Charleston and its approaches. 
It is true that much depended on the class of vessel. It 
was obviously inexpedient to expose saihng-ships where 
they might be attacked by steamers, in ground also too 

169 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

contracted for manoeuvring; and two years later I found 
myself again blockading Georgetown, in a paddle steamer 
from the merchant service, the size and unwieldiness of 
which prevented her entering. Moreover, torpedoes had 
then begun to play a part in the war, though still in a 
very primitive stage of development. But in 1862 there 
was little outside work except at Charleston. The very 
reasons which determine the original selection of a port — 
facility for entrance, abundant anchorage, and ease of ac- 
cess to the interior for distribution and receipt of the arti- 
cles of commerce — determine also the accumulation of de- 
fences, to the exclusion of other less favored localities. All 
these conditions, natural and artificial, combined with the 
Union occupancy of the other inlets to concentrate block- 
ade-running upon Charleston. This in turn drew thither 
the blockaders, which had to be the more numerous be- 
cause the harbor could be entered by two or more chan- 
nels, widely separated. There was thus constituted a 
blockade society, which contrasted agreeably with the 
somewhat hermit-like existence of the smaller stations. 
The weather was usually pleasant enough — many Northern- 
ers now know the winter climate of South Carolina — so 
during the daytime the ships would lift their anchors and 
get more or less together; the officers, and to a less extent 
the crews, exchanging visits. Old acquaintanceships were 
renewed, former cruises discussed, "yarns" interchanged; 
and then there was always the war with its happenings. 
Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Shiloh, the Monitor and Merri- 
mac fight, the capture of New Orleans by Farragut, all oc- 
curred during the stay of the Pocahontas upon the blockade 
in 1862. Our news was apt to be ten days old, but to us 
it was as good as new; indeed, somewhat better, for we 
heard of the first reverses at Shiloh, and by the hands of 
the MerrimaCj by the same mail which brought word of 
the final decided victory. Thus we were spared the anx- 

170 



INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE 

iety of suspense. Even the disasters about Richmond were 
not by us fairly appreciated until the ship returned North, 
when the mortification of defeat was somewhat solaced, 
and the tendency to despondency lessened, by the happi- 
ness of being again at home ; in my case after a continuous 
absence of more than three years, in the Congress and 
Pocahontas. 

Talking of despondency, I had an odd experience of the 
ease with which people forget their frames of mind. While 
Burnside was engaged in the movements preceding Fred- 
ericksburg, I was in conversation with a veteran naval 
officer at his own house. Speaking of the probable out- 
come of the operations in progress, which then engrossed 
all thoughts, he said to me, "I think, Mr. Mahan, that if 
we fail this time, we may as well strike'^; the naval phrase 
"strike the colors" being the equivalent of surrender — 
give up. I dissented heartily; not from any really rea- 
soned appreciation of conditions, but on general principles, 
as understood by a man still very young. More than two 
years later, when the war had just drawn to its trium- 
phant close, I again met the same gentleman. Amid our 
felicitations, he said to me, "There is one thing, Mr. 
Mahan, which I have never allowed myself to doubt — the 
ultimate success of our just cause." 

After all, it was very natural. When you are cold, 
you're cold, and when you're hot, you're hot; and if you 
are indiscreet enough to say so to some one who feels dif- 
ferently, he remembers it against you. What business 
have you to feel other than he ? If, with the thermometer 
at zero, I chance to say that I wish it were warmer, I am 
sure of some one, a lady usually, bursting in upon me when 
it is ninety-five, with the jeer, "Well! I hope, now, you are 
satisfied." I recall distinctly the long faces we pulled when 
we reached Philadelphia on our return, and realized, by 
the withdrawal of McClellan's army to Washington, the 

171 



FROM SAIL TO 8TFAM 

full (!xtorit of our disasUirs on the Peninsula; my old com- 
modore might then have found some to say, Amen. But 
this did not keep our hats any lower when we chucked them 
aloft over Vicksburg and Gettysburg, and forgot that we 
had ever felt otherwise. 

Vicksburg and Gettysburg, by the way, and their coin- 
cidence with the Fourth of July, have furnished me with a 
reminiscence fjuite otherwise agreeable. The ship in which 
I th(m was spent that Fourth at Spithead, lOngland. We 
dressed ship with multicolored signals, red, white, and 
blue, at every yard-arm, big American ensigns at the three 
mast-heads and the peak, presenting a singularly gay and 
joyful aspect, which could profitably be viewed from as 
many points as Mr. Pecksniff looked at Salisbury Cathedral. 
At noon we fired a national salute, all the more severely 
punctilious and observant, because by the last mail things 
at home seemed to be looking particularly blue. The 
British ships of war, though I fear few of their oflficers 
then were other than pleased with our presumed discom- 
fiture, dressed likewise, as by naval courtesy bound, and 
also fired a salute. The Times of the day arrived from 
London in due season, and had improved the occasion to 
moralize upon the sad condition to which the Republic 
of Bunker Hill and Yorktown was reduced : Grant held up 
at Vicksburg,^ Lee marching victoriously into Pennsyl- 
vania, no apparent probability of escaping disaster in either 
quarter. The conclusion was couched in that vein of 
Pecksniffian benevolence of which we hear so much in life. 
" Let us hope that so much adversity may be tempered to 
a nation, afflicted with evil as unprecedented as its former 

» On roferrinR to the filo of the Times, I find that the forecast con- 
ceniin«? Vif'ksl)ur^ occurred in the issue of July 1st. " It is not im- 
probable we may hear that General Grant has been obliged to raise the 
siege of Vicksburf^." It is surprising to note of how secondary im- 
portance the Vicksburg issue appears to have been thought at the time. 

172 



INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE 

prosfX3rity; and this will indeed be the case if America 
... is led on this day of festivity, now converted into a 
day of humiliation, to review past errors, and to consider 
that, if her presc^nt policy has led her so near ruin, in its 
reversal must He the only path that can conduct her to 
safety." I wonder, if there had been a cable, would that 
editorial have been headed off. It was not. 

"And there it stands unto this day, 
To witness if I lie." 

It was bitter then to my taste; but sweet were the chuckles 
which I later had, when the actual transactions of that 
anniversary came to hand. 

Whatever their sym.pathies, the J3ritish naval officers 
during that stay in British waters had no difficulty in pay- 
ing as all the usual personal attentions; but a particular 
incident showed for our susceptibilities a nicety of con- 
sideration, which could not have been exacted and was 
very grateful at the time. We were at Plymouth, under 
the breakwater, but some distance from the inner anchor- 
age, when a merchant-vessel lying inside hoisted a Con- 
federate flag at her mizzen mast-head. We saw it, but of 
course could do nothing. It was a clear case of intended 
insxilt, for the ship had no claim to the flag, and could only 
mean to flaunt us. It flew for perhaps an hour, and then 
disappeared. The same day, and not long afterwards, a 
British lieutenant from a vessfd in the harbor came on 
board, and told me that he had had it hauled down, acting 
in place of his captain, who was absent. The communica- 
tion to me, also momentarily in command, was purely per- 
sonal; indeed, there was nothing official in the whole trans- 
action, nor do I know by what means or by what authority 
he could insist upon the removal of the flag. However 
managed, the tfiing was done, and with the purjxjse of 
stopping a rudeness which, it is true, reflected more upon 

173 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

the port than upon us, for I think the offending vessel was 
British. Very many years afterwards I had occasion to 
quote this, when, during the Boer War, on the visit of a 
British squadron to one of our seaside resorts, a resident 
there thought to show American breeding by hoisting the 
Four-Color. In the late winter of 1863-64 I again met 
this officer and his ship in New Orleans. In conversation 
then he told me he did not believe the Union cause could 
succeed; that he, with others, looked to see three or four 
nations formed. In the same month of 1863 this anticipa- 
tion would not have surprised me; but in 1864 it did, al- 
though Grant had not yet begun his movement upon 
Richmond. 

Blockading was desperately tedious work, make the best 
one could of it. The largest reservoir of anecdotes was sure 
to run dry; the deepest vein of original humor to be worked 
out. I remember hearing of two notorious tellers of stories 
being pitted against each other, for an evening's amuse- 
ment, when one was driven as a last resource to recounting 
that "Mary had a little lamb." We were in about that 
case. Charleston, however, was a blooming garden of 
social refreshment compared with the wilderness of the 
Texas coast, to which I found myself exiled a year or so 
later; a veritable Siberia, cold only excepted. Charleston 
was not very far from the Chesapeake or Delaware, in dis- 
tance or in time. Supply vessels, which came periodically, 
and at not very long intervals, arrived with papers not very 
late, and with fresh provisions not very long slaughtered; but 
by the time they reached Galveston or Sabine Pass, which 
was our station, their news was stale, and we got the bot- 
tom tier of fresh beef. The ship to which I there belonged 
was a small steam-corvette, which with two gunboats consti- 
tuted all the social possibilities. Happily for myself, I did 
not join till midway in the corvette's stay off the port, 
which lasted in all nearly six months, before she was re- 

174 



INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE 

called in mercy to New Orleans. I have never seen a body 
of intelligent men reduced so nearly to imbecility as my 
shipmates then were. 

One of my captains used to adduce, as his conception 
of the extreme of isolation, to be the keeper of a lightship 
off Cape Horn; a professional conceit rivalling the elder 
Mr. Weller's equally profound recognition of the connec- 
tion between keeping a pike and misanthropy. We off 
Sabine Pass were banished about equally with the keeper 
of a turnpike or of a remote lightship. We ought, of course, 
to have improved the leisure which weighed so heavily on 
our hands; but the improvement of idle moments is an 
accomplishment of itself, as many a retired business man 
has found out too late. There is an impression, derived 
from the experience of passengers on board ocean steamers, 
that naval officers have an abimdance of spare time. The 
ship, it seems assumed, runs itself; the officers have only 
to look on and enjoy. As a matter of fact, sea officers 
under normal conditions are as busy as the busiest house- 
keeper, with the care to boot of two, three, four, or five 
hundred children, to be kept continually doing as they 
should; the old woman who lived in the shoe had a good 
thing in comparison. Thus occupied, the leisure habit of 
self-improvement, other than in the practice of the calhng, 
is not formed. At sea, on a voyage, the vicissitudes of suc- 
cessive days provide the desultory succession of incidents, 
which vary and fill out the tenor of occupations, keeping 
life full and interesting. In port, besides the regular and 
fairly engrossing routine, there are the resources of the 
shore to fill up the chinks. But the dead monotony of the 
blockade was neither sea nor port. It supplied nothing. 
The crew, once drilled, needed but a few moments each 
day to keep at the level of proficiency; and there was prac- 
tically nothing to do, because nothing happened that re- 
quired either a doing or an undoing. 

175 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

Under such conditions even a gale of wind was a not un- 
welcome change. Although little activity was' required to 
meet it, it at least presented new surroundings — something 
different from the daily outlook. After a very brief peri- 
od, it became the rule to ride out the storms at anchor; 
and I remember one of our volunteer officers, who had 
commanded a merchant-ship for some years, saying that 
he would have been spared a good deal of trouble, on occa- 
sions, had he had our experience of holding on with an 
anchor instead of keeping under way. It was, however, 
an old if forgotten expedient, where anchorage ground was 
good — bottom sticky and water not too deep. In the an- 
cient days of the French wars, the British fleets off Brest 
and Toulon had to keep under way, but that blockading 
Cadiz, in 1797-98, used to hold its position at anchor, and 
under harder conditions than ours; for there the worst gales 
blew on shore, whereas ours swept chiefly along the coast. 
A standing dispute in the British navy, in those days of 
hemp cables, used to be whether it was safer to ride with 
three anchors down, or with one only, having to it three 
cables, bent together, so as to form one of thrice the usual 
length. The balance of opinion leaned to the latter; the 
dead weight of so much hemp held the ship without trans- 
mitting the strain to the anchor itself. She "rode to the 
bight," as the expression was; that is, to the cable, curved 
by its own weight and length, lying even in part on the 
bottom, which prevented its tightening and pulling at the 
anchor. What was true of hemp was yet more true of 
iron chains. The Pocahontas used to veer to a hundred 
fathoms, and there lie like a duck in fifty or sixty feet of 
water. I remember on one occasion, however, that when 
we next weighed the anchor, it came up with parts polished 
bright, as in my childhood we used sometimes to burnish 
a copper cent. This seemed to show that it had been 
scoured hard along a sandy bottom. We had had no sus- 

176 



INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE 

picion of the ship's dragging during the gale, and I have 
since supposed that it may have started from its bed as 
we began to heave, and so been scrubbed along towards us. 
The problem of maintaining the health of ships' com- 
panies condemned to long months of salt provisions, and 
to equally depressing short allowance of social salt for the 
intellect, which reasonable beings crave, has to be ever 
present to those charged with administration. Nelson's 
"cattle and onions" sums up in homely phrase the first re- 
quirement; while, for the others, his policy during a weary 
two years, in which he himself never left the flag-ship, was 
to keep the vessels in constant movement, changing scene, 
and thereby maintaining expectation of something excit- 
ing turning up. "Our men's minds," he said, "arc always 
kept up with the daily hopes of meeting the enemy." As 
the Confederacy had practically no navy, this particular 
distraction was debarred our blockaders; but in the mat- 
ter of food, we in the early sixties had not got beyond his 
prescription for the opening years of the century. The primi- 
tive methods then still in vogue, for preserving meats and 
vegetables fresh, accomplished chiefly the making them per- 
fectly tasteless, and to the eye uninviting; the palate, ac- 
customed to the constant stimulant of salt, turned from 
"bully" (bouilli) beef and "desecrated" (dessicated) pota- 
toes, jaded before exercise. Like liquor, salt, long used in 
large measures, at last becomes a craving. I have heard 
old seamen more than once say, "I must have my salt;" 
and I have even known one to express his utter weariness 
of the fresh butter France sends up with its morning coffee 
and rolls. So we on the blockade depended more upon the 
good offices of salt than upon those of tin cans, for giving 
us acceptable food; the consequence being, with us as with 
our British forebears, a keen physical demand for " cattle 
and onions." In one principal respect our supplies dif- 
fered from theirs — in the profusion of ice afforded by our 

177 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

country. Our beef, therefore, came to us already butch- 
ered, while theirs was received on the hoof. Many of my 
readers doubtless will recall the adventures of Mr. Mid- 
shipman Easy, when in charge of the transport from 
Tetuan with bullocks for the fleet off Toulon. Onions — 
blessings on their heads, if they have any — came to both us 
and our predecessors as easily as they were welcome. I have 
sometimes heard the plea, that Nature is the best guide 
in matters of appetite, advanced for indulgences which, so 
construed, seemed to reflect upon her parental character; 
but there can be no such doubt concerning onions to a 
system well saturated with salt. When you see them you 
know what you want; and a half-dozen raw, with a simple 
salad dressing, were little more than a whetter on the 
blockade. Would it be possible now to manage a single 
one? 



VIII 

INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE— CONTINUED 

1863—1865. 

The Pocahontas came North for repairs in the late sum- 
mer of 1862, and after a brief leave I was ordered to the 
Naval Academy. Under the stress of the war, this had 
been broken out from its regular seat at Annapolis and 
transferred for the moment to Newport. All the arrange- 
ments were temporary and extemporized. The principal 
establishment, housing the three older classes, was in a 
building in the town formerly known as the Atlantic Hotel; 
while the new entries, who were very numerous, were quar- 
tered on two sailing-frigates, moored head and stern in the 
inner harbor, off Goat Island. This duplex arrangement 
necessitated a double set of officers, not easy to be had 
with war going on; the more so that the original corps had 
been depleted by the resignations of Southern men. The 
embarrassment arising from the immediate scantness of 
officers led naturally, if perhaps somewhat irreflectively, to 
a great number of admissions to the Naval Academy, dis- 
regardful of past experience with the '41 Date, and of the 
future, when room at the top would be lacking to take in 
all these youngsters as captains and admirals. Thus was 
constituted the "hump,'' as it came to be called, which, 
like a tumor on the body, engaged at a later day the atten- 
tion of many professional practitioners. As it would not 
absorb, and as the rough-and-ready methods by which civil 
life and the survival of the fittest deal with such conditions 

179 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

could not be applied, it had to be dissipated; a process 
ultimately carried out with indifferent success. While it 
lasted it caused many a heartache from postponement. As 
one of the sufferers said, when hearing the matter dis- 
cussed, "I don't know about this or that. All I know is 
that I have been a lieutenant for twenty years." Owing 
to the slimness of the service in the lower grades they be- 
came lieutenants young; but there they stuck. Every 
boom is followed by such reaction, and for a military ser- 
vice war is a boom. Expansion sets in; and when con- 
traction follows somebody is squeezed. At the end of the 
Napoleonic Wars there were over eight hundred post-cap- 
tains in the British navy. AVliat could peace do for 
them? 

Eight pleasant months I spent on shore at the Acad- 
emy, and then was again whisked off to sea, there to re- 
main for substantially all the rest of the war. Although 
already prominent as a fashionable watering-place, New- 
port then was very far from its present development; but 
in winter it had a settled and pleasant, if small, society. 
At this time I met the widow of Captain Lawrence of the 
Chesapeake, who survived until two years later. She was 
already failing, and not prematurely; for it was then, 1862- 
63, the fiftieth year since her husband fell. She lived with 
a sister, also the widow of an officer, and was frequently 
visited by .her granddaughter, the child of Lawrence's 
daughter, a singularly beautiful girl. I remember her 
pointing to me a picture of the defeat of the Peacock by 
the Hornet J under her grandfather's command; on which, 
she laughingly said, she had been brought up. This meet- 
ing had for me not only the usual interest which a link 
with the distant past supplies, but a certain special as- 
sociation; for my grandmother, then recently dead, had 
known several of Lawrence's contemporaries in the "navy, 
and my recollection is that she told me she had seen him 

180 



INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE 

leaving his wife at their doorstep, when departing to take 
command of the Chesapeake. 

When the summer of 1863 drew nigh, the question of the 
usual practice cruise came up. I have before stated the 
two opinions : one favoring a regular ocean voyage, with its 
customary routine and accidents of weather; the other 
more disposed to contracted cruising in our own waters, an- 
choring at night, and by day following a formulated pro- 
gramme of varied practical exercises. For this year both 
plans were adopted. There were two practice-ships, one 
of which was to remain between Narragansett and Gardi- 
ner's Bay, in Long Island. I was ordered as first lieutenant 
of the other, which was to go to Europe. The advisability 
of this step for a sailing-ship was on this occasion doubly 
questioned, for the Alabama had already begun her career. 
In fact, one of the officers then stationed at the school had 
been recently captured by her, when making a passage to 
Panama in a mail-steamer. I remember his telling me, 
with glee, that when the Alabama fired a shot in the direc- 
tion of the packet, called, I think, the Ariel, a number of 
the passengers took refuge behind the bulkheads of the 
upper-deck saloons, which, being of light pine, afforded as 
much protection as the air, with the additional risk of 
splinters. He hoped to escape observation, but the Con- 
federate boarding-officer had been a classmate of his, and 
spotted him at once. Being paroled, he was for the time 
shut off from war service, and was sent to the Academy. 
He was a singular man, by name Tecumseh Steece, and 
looked with a certain disdain upon the navy as a profes- 
sion. In his opinion, it was for him only a stepping-stone 
to some great future, rather undefined. At bottom a very 
honest fellow, with a sense of duty which while a midship- 
man had led him to persist defiantly in a very unpopular — 
though very proper — course of action, he yet seemed to 
see no impropriety in utterly neglecting professional ac- 

181 



FROM SAIL TO STEMI 

quirement, rather boasting of his ignorance. The result 
was that, having been detailed for the European cruise, he 
was subsequently detached; I think from doubt of his fit- 
ness for the deck of a sailing-vessel. While at the Academy 
at this time, he took a first step in his proposed career by 
writing a pamphlet, the title and scope of which I now for- 
get; but unluckily, by a slip of the pen, he wrote on the 
first page, " We judge the known by the unknown^ This, 
being speedily detected, raised a laugh, and I fear prevent- 
ed most from further exploration of a somewhat misty 
thesis. He was rather chummy with me, and tried mildly 
to persuade me that I also should stand poised on the navy 
for a flight into the empyrean ; but, if fain to soar, which I 
do not think I was, like Raleigh, I feared a fall. For him- 
self, poor fellow, weighted by his aspirations, he said to me, 
"I don't fear death, I fear life;" and death caught him 
early, in 1864, in the shape of yellow-fever. One of his 
idiosyncrasies was a faith in coffee as a panacea; and I 
heard that while sickening he deluged himself with that 
beverage, to what profit let physicians say. 

The decision that one of the practice-ships should go to 
Europe had, I think, been determined by the officer who 
was to have commanded the Macedonian, the vessel chosen 
for that purpose. She was not the one of that name capt- 
ured in 1812 by the United States, — the only one of our 
frigate captures brought into port, — but a successor to 
the title. Before she went into commission, the first com- 
mander was detached to service at the front; but no change 
was made in her destination, even if any misgivings were 
felt. One of my fellow-officers at the Academy, who was 
not going, remarked to me pleasantly that, if we fell in 
with the Alabama, she would work round us like a cooper 
round a cask; an encouraging simile to one who has looked 
upon that cheerful and much one-sided performance. We 
were all too young — I, the senior lieutenant, was but twenty- 

182 



INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE 

two — and too light-hearted to be troubled with forebod- 
ings; and, indeed, there was in reason no adequate induce- 
ment for the Confederate cruiser to alter her existing plans 
in order to take the Macedonian. Had we come fairly in 
her way, to gobble a large percentage of the Naval Acad- 
emy might have been a fairly humorous practical joke; 
but it could have been no more. I remember Mr. Schuy- 
ler Colfax, afterwards Vice-President, then I think a mem- 
ber of the House, being on board, and mentioning the 
subject to me. "After all," he said, "I suppose it would 
scarcely do for one of our vessels to be deterred from a 
cruise by regard for a Confederate cruiser." Considering 
the disparity of advantage, due to steam, I should say 
this would scarcely be a working theory, in naval life or in 
private. Our military insignificance was our sufficient 
protection. During my cruise in the Congress, 3, ship much 
heavier every way than the Macedonian, the commander 
of one of our corvettes, substantially of the Alabama class, 
said to our captain, " I suppose, if I fell in with you as an 
enemy, I ought to attack you." "Well," replied the other, 
"if you didn't, you should pray not to have me on your 
court-martial." 

The officer originally designated to command the Mace- 
donian had been very greatly concerned about the mid- 
shipmen's provisions : the quality of which they should be, 
and the room to be kept for their stowage. I wonder would 
his soul have been greatly vexed had he accompanied me 
the first evening out, as I inspected the steerage while they 
were at supper? "What!" shouted one of them to a ser- 
vant, as I passed. "What! No milk?" The mingled con- 
sternation, bereavement, and indignation which struggled 
for full expression in the words beggar description. I can 
see his face and hear his tones to this day. Laughable to 
comedy ; yet to a philosophizing turn of mind what an epit- 
ome of life! Do we not at every corner of experience 

183 



FROM SAIL TO STEAJVI 

meet the princess who felt the three hard peas under the 
fifty feather-beds? Sydney Smith's friend, who had every- 
thing else life could give, but realized only the disappoint- 
ing view out of one of his windows? We might dispense 
with Hague Conferences. War is going to cease because 
people adequately civilized will not endure hardness. 
Whether in the end we shall have cause to rejoice in the 
double event remains to be seen. The Asiatic can endure. 

Among the Macedonian's lieutenants was the late Ad- 
miral Sampson. We had also for deck officers two who 
had but just graduated ; one of them a young Frenchman 
belonging to the royal house of Orleans, who had been per- 
mitted to take the course at our naval school, I presume 
with a view on his part to possible contingencies recalling 
the monarchy to France. Under Louis Philippe, a mem- 
ber of the family had been prominent in the French navy, 
as the Prince de Joinville ; and had commanded the squad- 
ron which brought back the body of Napoleon from St. 
Helena. The representative with us was a very good-tem- 
pered, amiable, unpresuming man, too young as yet to be 
formed in character. As messmates we were, of course, all 
on terms of cordial equality, and one of our number used 
frequently to greet him with effusion as ^'You old King." 
He spoke English easily, though scarcely fluently, and with 
occasional eccentricity of idiom. At the Academy, before 
graduation, he took his turn with others of his class as 
officer of the day, one of whose duties was to keep a journal 
of happenings. I chanced once to inspect this book, and 
found over his signature an entry which began, "The 
weather was a dirty one." 

While at the school, the young duke had been provided 
with a guide, philosopher, and friend, in the person of an 
accomplished ex-officer of the French navy, who had been 
obliged to quit that service, under the Empire, because of 
his attachment to the exiled monarchy. I knew this gen- 

184 



INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE 

tleman very well at Newport, exchanging with him occa- 
sional visits, though he was much my senior in years. His 
name was Fauvel, which the midshipmen, or other, had 
promptly Anglicized into Four Bells — a nautical hour- 
stroke. I suppose this propensity to travesty foreign or 
difficult names is not merely maritime; but naturally 
enough my reading has brought me more in contact with 
it in connection with naval matters. Thus the Ville de 
Milariy captured into the British service, became to their 
seamen the "Wheel 'em along;" and the Bellerophoriy 
originally their own, is historically reported to have passed 
current as the "Bully Ruffian." Captain Fauvel accom- 
panied us in the Macedonian; but after arriving in England, 
as we were to go to Cherbourg, his charge and he left us, 
neither being persona grata at that date in a French har- 
bor. When we reached Cherbourg, Fauvel's wife was 
there, either resident or for the moment, and at our cap- 
tain's invitation visited the ship to see where her husband 
had been living, and would again be when we reached a 
more friendly port. As contrary luck would have it, while 
she was on board, the French admiral and the general com- 
manding the troops came alongside to return the official 
call paid them. The awkwardness, of course, was merely 
that her presence obtruded the fact, otherwise easily and 
discreetly ignored, that when out of French waters we were 
hospitably entertaining persons politically distasteful to 
the French government, the courtesies of which we were 
now accepting; and there was a momentary impulse to 
keep her out of sight. A better judgment prevailed, how- 
ever, and a very courteous exchange of French politeness 
ensued between the officials and the lady, to whom doubt- 
less no political significance attached. A more notable 
circumstance, in the light of the then future, was that dur- 
ing our few days in Cherbourg arrived the news of the 
capture of the city of Mexico by the French troops; and 

185 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

before our departure . took place the official celebration, 
with flags and salutes, of that crowning event in an enter- 
prise which in the end proved disastrous to its origmator, 
and fatal to his protege, ^laximilian. 

The Macedonian, for a sailing-vessel, had a quite rapid 
run across from Newport to Plymouth, eighteen days from 
anchor to anchor, though I believe one of our frigates, after 
the war, made it in twelve. This was the only occasion, 
during my fairly nmiierous crossings, that I have ever 
seen icebergs under a brilliant sky. Usually the scoundrels 
come skulking along masked by a fog, as though ashamed 
of themselves, as they ought to be. They are among the 
most obnoxious of people who do not know their place. 
This time we passed several, quite large, having a light 
breeze and perfectly clear horizon. After that it again set 
in thick, with the usual anxiety which ice, unseen but sure- 
ly near, cannot but cause. Finally we took a very heavy 
gale of wind, which settled to southwest, hauling gradual- 
ly to northwest and sending us rejoicing on our way a 
thousand miles in four days, much of this time under close- 
reefed topsails. 

I am not heedless of the great danger of merely prosing 
along in the telling of the days of youth, so I will shut off 
my experience of the Macedonian with an incident which 
amused me greatly at the time, and still seems to have a 
moral that one needs not to point. AMiile lying at Spit- 
head, a number of the midshipmen were sent ashore to 
visit the dock yard, — professional improvement. ^Mien 
they returned, the lieutenants in charge were full of the 
block-making processes. The ingenuity of the macliinery, 
the variety and beauty of the blocks, the many excellences, 
had the changes iimg upon them, meal after meal, till I 
could hear the whir of the wheels in my head and see the 
chips fly. ^leantime, our captain went to London, having 
completed his official visiting, and an English captain came 

186 



INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE 

on board to return a call. Declining my invitation to enter 
the cabin, he walked up and down the quarter-deck with 
me, discussing many things; under his arm his sword. 
Suddenly he stopped short, and pointing with it to a big 
iron-strapped leading-block, he said, "Now that is what I 
call a sensible block; I wonder why it is we cannot get 
blocks hke that in our ships.^' I was not prepared with a 
reason for their defects, then or since; but my unreadiness 
has not marred my enjoyment of these divergent points 
of view. Perhaps the captain was a professional mal- 
content; for, looking at a Parrott rifled hundred-pounder 
gun which we carried on the quarter-deck, he said, inter- 
rogatively, "Not breech -loading?" "No," I answered, 
" breech-loading is not in favor with us at present." "And 
very right you are," he rejoined. I think they then (1863) 
still had the Arnistrong breech-loading system. This 
incident may deserve a place in the paleontology of gun- 
making. There are now, I presume, no muzzle-loaders left; 
unless in museums, as specimens. 

Very shortly after the Macedonian's return home I was 
sent to New Orleans, for a ship on the Texas blockade; 
transportation being given me on one of the "beef-boats," 
as the supply-vessels were familiarly known. Among fel- 
low-passengers was one of my class; for a while, indeed, 
my room-mate at the Academy. AVhen we reached New 
Orleans the chief of staff said to me, " There is a vacancy 
on board the Mo7iongahela/' a ship larger and in everyway 
better than the Seminole to which I was ordered ; moreover, 
she was lying off Mobile, a sociable blockade, instead of 
at a jumping-off place, the end of nowhere, Sabine Pass, 
where the Seminole was. He advised me to apply for her, 
which I did; but Commodore Bell, acting in Farragut's 
absence in the North, decHned. I must go to the ship to 
which the Department had assigned me, and for which it 
doubtless had its reasons. So my classmate was ordered 

187 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

to her instead, and on board her was killed in the passage 
of the Mobile forts the following August. I can scarcely 
claim a miraculous escape, as it does not appear that I 
should have got in the way of the ball which finished him ; 
but for him, poor fellow, who had not been long married, 
the commodore's refusal to me was a sentence of death. 

I shall not attempt to furbish up any intellectual enter- 
tainment for readers from the excessively dry bones of my 
subsequent blockading, esj^ecially off the mouth of the 
Sabine. Only a French cook could produce a passable 
dish out of such woful material; and even he would require 
concomitant ingredients, in remembered incidents, wherein, 
if there were any, my memory fails me. Day after day, 
day after day, we lay inactive — roll, roll; not wholly in- 
effective, I suppose, for our presence stopped blockade- 
running; but even in this respect the Texas coast had 
largely lost importance since the capture of Vicksburg and 
Port Hudson, the previous summer, had cut off the trans- 
Mississippi region from the body of the Confederacy. We 
used to see the big, light-draught steamers coming up the 
river, or crossing the lagoon-like bay, sometimes crowded 
with people; and the possibility was discussed of their 
carrying troops, and of their coming out to attack us, as 
not long before had been successfully done against our 
vessels inside Galveston Bay. In a norther, possibly, 
such a thing might have been tried, for the sea was then 
smooth; but in the ordinary ground-swell I imagine the 
soldiers would have been incapacitated by sea-sickness. 
The chances were all against success, and no attempt was 
ever made; but it was something to talk about. 

The ensuing twelve or fifteen montlis to the close of the 
war were equally imeventful. Long before they ended I 
had got back to the South Atlantic coast. To this I w^as 
indebted for the opportmiity of being present when the 
United States flag was ceremoniously hoisted again over 

188 



INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE 

what then remained of Fort Sumter, by General Robert 
Anderson, who, as Major Anderson, had been forced to 
lower it just four years before. Henry Ward Beecher de- 
livered the address, of which I remember little, except 
that, citing the repeated question of foreigners, why we 
should wish to re-establish our authority over a land 
w^here the one desire of the people was to reject it, he re- 
plied, " We so wish, because it is ours.'^ The sentiment 
was obvious enough, one would think, to any man who 
had a country to love and objected to seeing it dismem- 
bered, but to many of our European critics it then seemed 
monstrous in an American; at least they said so. The 
orator on such an occasion has only to swim with the cur- 
rent. The enthusiasm is already there; he needs not to 
elicit it. Here and again a blast of eloquence from him 
may start the fire roaring, but the flame is already kin- 
dled. The joy of harvest, the rejoicing of men who divide 
the spoil, the boasting of them who can now put off their 
harness, need not the stimulation of words. 

The exact coincidence of raising the flag over Simiter 
on the anniversary of its lowering was artificial, but the 
date of the surrender of Charleston, February 18th, was 
just opportune to complete the necessary arrangements 
and preparations without holding back the ceremony, on 
the night of which — Good Friday — within twelve hours. 
President Lincoln was murdered. Joy and grief were thus 
brought into immediate and startling contrast. A per- 
fectly natural and quite impressive coincidence came imder 
my notice in close connection with these occurrences. I 
was at this time on the staff of Admiral Dahlgren, com- 
mander-in-chief of the South Atlantic Blockading Squad- 
ron during the last two years of the war, and accompanied 
him when he entered Charleston Harbor, which he had so 
long assailed in vain. The following Sunday I attended 
service at one of the Episcopal churches. The appointed 
^3 189 



FROM SAIL TO STE.AJ\I 

first lesson for the day, Quinquagesima, was from the first 
chapter of Lamentations, beginning, "How cloth the city 
sit sohtary, that was full of people ! . . . She that was great 
among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how 
is she become tributary!" Considering the conspicuous, 
and even leading, part played by Charleston in the South- 
ern movement, " the cradle of secession," her initiation of 
hostihties, her long successful resistance, and her recent 
subjugation, the words and their sequence were strikingly 
and painfully appUcable to her present condition; for the 
Confederate troops in evacuating had started a large de- 
struction of property, and the Union forces on entering 
found public buildings, stores, warehouses, private dwell- 
ings, and cotton, on fire — a scene of distress to which some of 
them also further contributed.^ I myself remember streets 
littered with merchants' correspondence, a mute witness 
to other devastation. My recollection is that the officiat- 
ing clergyman saw and dodged the too evident application, 
reading some other chapter. Many still fiving may recall 
how apposite, though to a different mood, was the first les- 
son of the Sunday — the third after Easter — which in 1861 
followed the surrender of Sumter and the excited week 
that witnessed "the uprising of the North," — Joel iii., v. 9: 
"Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles: Prepare war, wake 
up the mighty men, let all men of war draw near; let them 
come up. Beat your ploughshares into swords, and your 
pruning-hooks into spears; let the weak say, I am strong." 
I was not in the country myself at that time, and my atten- 
tion was first drawn to this in 1865 by a clergyman, who told 
me of his startled astonishment upon opening the Book. In 
the then public temper it must have thrilled every nerve 
among the hearers, already strained to the uttermost by 
events without parallel in the history of the nation. 

^Rhodes's History of the United States, vol. v., p. 99. 

190 



INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE 

Being on Dahlgren's staff gave me also the opportunity 
of seeing, gathered together in social assembly, all the 
general officers who had shared in the March to the Sea. 
This was at a reception given by Sherman in Savannah, 
within a week after entering that city, which may be con- 
sidered the particular terminus of one stage in his prog- 
ress through the heart of the Confederacy. The admiral 
had gone thither in a small steamer, which served as flag- 
ship, to greet the triumphant chief. Few, if any, of the 
more conspicuous of Sherman's subordinates were absent 
from the rooms, thronged with men whose names were then 
in all mouths, and who in honor of the occasion had changed 
their marching clothes for full uniform, rarely seen in cam- 
paign. From the heads of the two armies, the union of 
which under him constituted his force, down through the 
brigade commanders, all were there with their staffs; and 
many besides. The tone of this gathering was more subdued 
than at Fort Sumter, if equally exultant. Success, achieve- 
ment, the clear demonstration of victory, such as the oc- 
cupation of Savannah gave, uplifts men's hearts and swells 
their breasts; but these men had worked off some of their 
heat in doing things. Besides, there yet remained for them 
other and weighty things to do. It could be felt sym- 
pathetically that with them the pervading sensation was 
relaxation — repose. They had reached their present height 
by prolonged labor and endurance, and were enjoying rather 
the momentary release from strain than the intoxication of 
triumph. 

In expectation of the victorious arrival of the army in 
Savannah, I had been charged with two messages, in pa- 
thetic contrast with each other. The first was from my 
father to Sherman himself, who twenty years before had 
been under his teaching as a cadet at the Mihtary Academy. 
I cannot now recall whether I bore with me a letter of con- 
gratulation which my father wrote him, and to which he 

191 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

pleasantly replied that he had from it as much satisfaction 
as when in far-away days he had been dismissed from the 
blackboard with the commendation, " Very well done, Mr. 
Sherman. '^ My reception by him, however, was in the 
exact spirit of this remark, and characteristic of the man. 
When I mentioned my name he broke into a smile — all 
over, as they say — shook my hand forcibly, and exclaimed, 
"What, the son of old Dennis?'^ reverting instinctively to 
the familiar epithet of school-days. 

My other errand was to a former school-mate of my 
mother's, resident in Savannah, with whom she had long 
maintained affectionate relations, which the war necessarily 
suspended. The next day I sought her out. When I 
found the house, she was at the door, in conversation with 
some of the subordinate officials of the invading army, 
probably with reference to the necessity of yielding rooms 
for quarters. The men were perfectly respectful, but the 
situation was perturbing to a middle-aged lady brought 
for the first time into contact with the rough customs of 
war, and she was very pale, worried in look, and harassed 
in speech; evidently quite doubtful as to what latent pos- 
sibilities of harm such a visit might portend — whether 
ultimately she might not find herself houseless. I made 
myself known, but she was not responsive; courteous, for 
with her breeding she could not be otherwise, but too pre- 
occupied with the harsh present to respond to the gentler 
feelings of the past. It was touchingly apparent that she 
was trying hard to keep a stiff upper lip, and her attempted 
frame of mind finally betrayed itself in the words, uttered 
tremulously, with excitement or mortification, " I don't ad- 
mit yet that you have beaten us." I could scarcely con- 
test the point, but it was very sad. At the moment I could 
almost have wished that we had not. 

At the mouths of the Georgia rivers Sherman^s soldiers 
struck tide-water, many of them for the first time in 

192 



INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE 

their lives; and a story was current that two, foraging, 
lay down to sleep by the edge of a stream, and were as- 
tounded by waking to find themselves in the water. To 
consider the tide, however, is an acquired habit. Sher- 
man's approach to the Atlantic had given rise to a certain 
amount of naval and mihtary activity on the part of the 
forces already stationed there. In connection with this 
I had been sent on some staff errand that caused me to 
spend a couple 'of days on board the Pawnee, which had 
just been carrying about army officers for reconnoissances. 
" By George!" said her captain, laughing and bringing down 
his fist on the table, "you can't make those fellows under- 
stand that a ship has to look out for the tide. I would say 
to them, 'See here, the tide is running out, and if we don't 
move very soon we shall be left aground, fast till next high- 
water.' 'Oh yes, yes,' they would reply, 'all right'; and 
then they would forget all about it, and go on as if they 
had unlimited time." But of course the captain did not 
forget. 

The fall of Richmond and Charleston, and the surrender 
of Lee's army, assuring the early termination of hostifities 
on any grand scale, the admiral had kindly transferred me 
from his staff back to the ship on board which I had joined 
the squadron a year before, and which was soon to return 
North. War service, nominal at least, was not, however, 
quite over; for after some brief repairs we were sent down 
to Haiti to take up the duty of convoying the Pacific Mail 
steamers from the Windward Passage (between Cuba and 
Haiti) some distance towards Panama. It is perhaps 
worth recording that such an employment incident to the 
war was maintained for quite a while, consequent upon the 
capture of the Ariel, before mentioned. Upon my personal 
fortunes it had the effect of producing a severe tropical 
fever, engendered probably during the years of Southern 
service, and brought to a head by the conditions of Haiti. 

193 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

Whatever its cause, this led to my being invaHdcd for six 
months, at the expiration of which, to my grievous disap- 
pointment, I was again assigned to duty in the Gulf of 
Mexico. The War of Secession then — December, 1865 — 
was entirely over; but the Mexican expedition of Napoleon 
III., the culminating incident of which, the capture of 
Mexico, we had seen celebrated at Cherbourg in 1863, was 
still lingering. Begun in our despite, when our hands were 
tied by intestine troubles, it now engaged our unfriendly 
interest; and part of the attention paid to it was the main- 
tenance of a particular squadron in those waters — observ- 
ant, if quiescent. Here again sickness pursued, not me, 
but my ship; from the mouth of the Rio Grande we re- 
turned to Pensacola, with near a hundred men, half the 
ship's company, down with fever. It was not malignant — 
we had but three deaths — but one of those was our only 
doctor, and we were sent to the far North, and so out of 
commission, in September, 1866. The particular squadron 
was continued till the following spring, when, under diplo- 
matic pressure, the French expedition was withdrawn; but 
by then I was again in Rio de Janeiro on my way to China. 
The headquarters of this temporary squadron was at 
Pensacola; but until her unlucky visit to the Rio Grande 
my ship, the Muscoota, one of the iron double-ender paddle 
steamers which the war had evolved among other experi- 
ments, lay for some months at Key West, then, as always 
from its position, a naval station of importance. I suppose 
most people know that this word "Key," meaningless in 
its application to the low islands which it designates, is the 
angHcized form of the Spanish " Cayo.'^ Among the valued 
acquaintances of my life I here met a clergyman, whose 
death at the age of eighty I see as these words pass from 
my pen. As chaplain to the garrison, he had won the es- 
teem and praise of many, including General Sherman, for 
his devotion during an epidemic of yellow-fever, and he 

194 



INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE 

was now rector of the only Episcopal parish. He told me 
an anecdote of one of his flock. Key West, from its situa- 
tion, had many of the characteristics of an outpost, a 
frontier town, a mingUng of peoples, with consequent 
rough habits, hard drinking, and general dissipation. The 
man in question, a good fellow in his way, professed to be 
a very strong churchman, and constantly so avowed him- 
self; but the bottle was too much for him. The rector re- 
monstrated. " , how can you go round boasting 

yourself a churchman when your life is so scandalous? 
You are doing the Church harm, not good, by such talk.'' 
"Yes, Mr. Herrick," he replied, "I know it's too bad; it is 
a shame; but, you see, all the same, I avi a good church- 
man. I fight for the Church. If I hear a man say any- 
thing against her, I knock him down." It was at Mr. 
Herrick's table I heard criticised the local inadequacy of 
the prayer-book petition for rain. "What we want," said 
the speaker, "is not ^moderate rain and showers, that we 
may receive the fruits of the earth, ' but a hard down-pour 
to fill our tanks." Key West and its neighbors then de- 
pended chiefly, if not solely, upon this resource for drink- 
ing-water. 



IX 

A ROUNDABOUT ROAD TO CHINA 

1867 

With the termination of the War of Secession, which 
had concentrated the entire effort of the navy upon our 
own coasts and inland waters, the poHcy of the govern- 
ment reverted, irreflectively perhaps, to the identical sys- 
tem of distribution in squadrons that had existed before. 
The prolonged tension of mind and effort during four years 
of overwrought activity was followed by a period of re- 
action, to which, as far as the administration of the navy 
was concerned, the term collapse would scarcely be mis- 
applied. Of course, for a few years the evil effects of this 
would not be observable in the military resources of the 
government. Only the ravages of time could deprive us 
of the hundreds of thousands of veterans just released 
from the active practice of war; and the navy found itself 
in possession of a respectable fleet, which, though some- 
what over-specialized in order to meet the peculiar condi- 
tions of the hostilities, was still fairly modern. There was 
a body of officers fully competent in numbers and abihty, 
and comparatively young. In the first ship on board 
which I made a long cruise, beginning in 1867, of ten in the 
ward-room, three only, the surgeon, paymaster, and chief 
engineer, were over thirty ; and they barely. I myself, next 
to the captain, was twenty-six; and there was not a mar- 
ried man among us. Tlie seamen, though professionally 
more liable to dispersion than the land forces, were not yet 

196 



A ROUNDABOUT ROAD TO CHINA 

scattered. Thus provided against immediate alarms, and 
with the laurels of the War of Secession still fresh, the 
country in military matters lay do^vn and went to sleep, 
like the hare in the fable, regardless of the incessant prog- 
ress on every side, which, indeed, was scarcely that of the 
tortoise. Our ships underwent no change in character or 
armament. 

Twenty years later, in the Pacific, I commanded one of 
these old war-horses, not yet turned out to grass or slaugh- 
ter, ship-rigged to royals, and slow-steamed. One day the 
French admiral came on board to return my official visit. 
As he left, he paused for a moment abreast one of our big, 
and very old, pivot guns. "Ah! Capitaine,'' he said, "les 
vieux canons!'' Two or three days later came his chief 
of staff on some errand or other. That discharged, when I 
was accompanying him to his boat at the gangway, he 
stopped in the same spot as the admiral. His gaze was 
meditative, reminiscent, perhaps even sentimental. "Oil 
sont les neiges d'antan?" Whatever their present merits 
as fighting-machines, he saw before him an historical me- 
mento, sweeping gently, doubtless, the chords of youthful 
memories. "Oui, oui!" he said at last; "Tancien systeme. 
Nous Tavons eu." It was a summary of American naval 
policy during the twenty years following 1865; we "had" 
things which other nations "had had," until Secretary 
Chandler started the movement of renovation by the first 
of all necessary steps, the official exposure of the sham to 
which we had allowed ourselves to be committed. There 
is an expression, " quaker guns," applied to blackened cyl- 
inders of wood, intended to simulate cannon, and mount- 
ed upon ramparts or a ship's broadside to impose upon an 
enemy as to the force before him. We made four such for 
the Macedonian, to deceive any merchant-men we spoke as 
to our battery, in case she should report us to an Alabama; 
and, being carried near the bows, much trouble they gave 

197 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

us, being usually knocked overboard when we tacked ship, 
or set a lower studding-sail. Well, by 1885 the United 
States had a "quaker" navy; the result being that, not 
the enemy, but our own people were deceived. Like poor 
Steece's passengers on board the Ariel, we were blissfully 
sheltering behind pine boards. 

In 1867, however, these old ships and ancient systems 
were but just passing their meridian, and for a brief time 
might continue to live on their reputation. They were 
beautiful vessels in outline, and repaid in appearance all 
the care which the seamen naturally lavishes on his home. 
One could well feel proud of them; the more so that they 
had close behind them a good fighting record. It was to 
one such, the Iroquois, which had followed Farragut from 
New Orleans to Vicksburg, that I reported on the second 
day of that then new year. She was destined to China and 
Japan, the dream of years to me; but, better still, there was 
chalked out for her an extensive trip, '' from Dan to Beer- 
sheba," as a British officer enviously commented in my hear- 
ing. We were to go by the West Indies to Rio de Janeiro, 
thence by the Cape of Good Hope to Madagascar, to Aden 
at the mouth of the Red Sea, to Muscat at the entrance of 
the Persian Gulf, and so by India and Siam to our first 
port in Chinese waters. Hong Kong. The time, too, was 
apposite, for Japan had not yet entered upon the path of 
modernization which she has since pursued with such rev- 
olutionary progress. Some eight or ten years ago there 
lunched with me a yoimg Japanese naval officer, who I 
understand has occupied a position of distinguished respon- 
sibility during the recent war with Russia. I chanced to 
ask him if he had ever seen a two-sworded man. He re- 
plied, Never. He belonged to the samurai class, who once 
wore them; but in actual life they have disappeared. AVhen 
the Iroquois reached Japan, and throughout her stay, two- 
sworded men were as thick almost as blackberries. To 

198 



A ROUNDABOUT ROAD TO CHINA 

European prepossessions it was illuminating to see half a 
dozen riding down a street, hatless, crown of the head 
shaved, with a short pigtail at the back tied tight near the 
skull and then brought stiffly forward close to the scalp; 
their figures gowned, the handles of the two swords pro- 
jecting closely together from the left side of their garments, 
and the feet resting in stirrups of shpper form, which my 
memory says were of straw-work; but of that I am less sure. 
This equipment was completed by a painted fan stuck in 
the belt, and at times an opened paper imibrella. I have 
been passenger in the same boat with some of these war- 
riors, accoutred as above, and using their fans as required, 
while engaged in animated conversation with the coiu'tesy 
and smihng affability characteristic of all classes in Japan. 
Such, in outward seeming, then was the as yet raw material, 
out of which have been evolved the heroic soldiery who 
have recently astonished the world by the practical devel- 
opment they have given to modern military ideas; then as 
unhke the troops which now are, except in courage, as the 
ancient Japanese war-junk is to the present battle-ship. I 
was in Japan at the arrival of their first iron-clad, purchased 
in the United States, and doubtless long since consigned to 
the scrap-heap; but of her hereafter. 

A glance over the hst of vessels in the Navy Register of 
1907 shows me that the once abundant Indian names have 
disappeared, except where associated with some State or 
city; or, worse, have been degraded to tugboats, a treat- 
ment which the Indian, with all his faults, scarcely de- 
serves. They no longer connote ships of war. Iroquois, 
Seminole, Mohican, Wyoming, Oneida, Pawnee, and some 
dozens more, are gone with the ships, and Hke the tribes, 
which bore them. Yet what more appropriate to a vessel 
meant for a scout than the tribal epithet of a North Ameri- 
can Indian! Dacotah alone survives; while for it the march 
of progress in spelUng has changed the c to k, and phoneti- 

199 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

cally dropped the silent, and therefore supposedly useless, 
h. As if silence had no merits! is the interjection, ah^ 
henceforth to be spelled a? Since they with their names 
have passed into the world of ghosts — can there be for them 
a sea in the happy hunting-grounds? — it may be historically 
expedient to tell what manner of craft they were. If only 
some contemporary had done the same by the trireme, 
what time and disputation might have been saved! 

The Iroquois and her sisters, built in the fifties, were 
vessels of the kind to which I have applied the term cor- 
vette, then very common in all navies; cruisers only; scouts, 
or commerce-destroyers. Not of the line of battle, although 
good fighting-ships. Ours were of a thousand tons, as size 
was then stated, or about seven hundred tons "displace- 
ment," as the more modern expression runs; displacement 
being the weight of the water displaced by the hull which 
rests in and upon it. Thus measured, they were from one- 
third to one-fourth the dimensions of the vessels called 
third-class cruisers, which now correspond to them ; but their 
serviceableness in their time was sufficiently attested by 
the Confederate Alabama, substantially of this general type, 
as was her conqueror, the Kearsarge. For external appear- 
ance, they were something over two hundred feet long, 
with from one-fifth to one-sixth that width, and sat low 
in the water. Low and long are nautical features, sugges- 
tive of grace and speed, which have always obtained recog- 
nition for beauty; and the rail of these vessels ran un- 
broken, but with a fine sweep, from bow to stern. Along 
the water-line, and extending a few inches above it, shone 
the burnished copper, nearly parallel to the rail, between 
which and it ghstened the saucy black hull. 

Steam had not yet succeeded in asserting its undivided 
sway; but the Iroquois and her mates marked a stage in 
the progress, for they carried sails really as auxiliary, and 
were intended primarily to be fast steamers, as speed was 

200 



A ROUNDABOUT ROAD TO CHINA 

reckoned in their time. The larger vessels of the service 
were acceptedly slow under steam. They had it chiefly to 
fight with, and to help them across the places where wind 
failed or weakened. These corvettes carried sails with a 
view to saving coal, by utilizing the well-defined wind zones 
of the ocean when fair for their course. Though the prac- 
tical result for both was much the same, the underlying 
idea was different. In the one, sail held the first place ; in 
the other, steam; and it is the idea which really denotes 
and maintains intellectual movement and material progress. 
This was represented accordingly in the rig adopted. Like 
a ship, they had three masts, yes; but only the two for- 
ward were square-rigged, and on each of them but three 
sails. The lofty royals were discarded. The general result 
was to emphasize the design of speed under steam, and the 
use of sails with a fresh, fair wind only; a distinct, if partial, 
abandonment of the "auxiliary" steam reliance which so 
far had governed naval development. It may be added 
that the shorter and lighter masts, by a common optical 
effect, increased the impression of the vessel's length and 
swiftness, as was the case with the old-time sailing-frigate 
when her lofty topgallant-masts were down on deck. 

Under sail alone the Iroquois could never accomplish 
anything, except with a fair wind. We played with her at 
times, on the wind and tacking, but she simply slid off to 
leeward — never fetched near where she looked. Consonant 
with the expedient of using sails where the wind served, 
the screw could be disconnected from its shaft and hoist- 
ed; held in position, clear of the water, by iron pawls. 
In this way the hinderance of its submerged drag upon the 
speed of the ship was obviated. We did this on occasions, 
when we could reckon on a long period of favorable breezes ; 
but it was a troublesome and somewhat anxious operation. 
The chance of a slip was not great, but the possibility was 
unpleasant to contemplate. When I add that for arma- 

201 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

ment we carried one 100-pouiider rifled gun on a pivot, 
and four 9-inch smooth-bore shell guns — these being the 
naval piece which for the most part fought the War of Se- 
cession, then just closed — I shall have given the principal 
distinguishing features of a class of vessel which did good 
service in its day, and is now as much of the past as is the 
Spanish Armada. Yet it is only forty years since. 

After being frozen up and snowed under, during a very 
bitter and boisterous January, we at last got to sea, and 
soon ran into warmer weather. Our first stop was at the 
French West India island Guadeloupe, and there I had 
set for me amusingly that key-note of travelling experience 
which most have encountered. I was dining at a cafe, and 
after dinner got into conversation with an ofiicer of the 
garrison. I asked him some question about the wet 
weather then reigning. "C'est exceptionnel," he replied; 
and exceptional we found it "from Dan to Beersheba." 
At our next port, Ciara, there was drought when every resi- 
dent said it should have rained constantly — a variation a 
stranger could endure ; while at Rio it was otherwise peculiar 
— " the warmest April in years." The currents all ran con- 
trary to the books, and the winds which should have been 
north hung obstinately at south. Whether for natiu-al 
productions, or weather, or society, we were commonly 
three months too late or two months too soon; or, as one 
of "ours'' put it, we should have come in the other mon- 
soon. Nevertheless, it was impossible for youth and high 
spirits to follow our schedule and not find it spiced to the 
full with the enjoyment of novelty; if not in season, at 
least well seasoned. 

However, every one travels nowadays, and it is time 
worse than wasted to retell what many have seen. But 
do many of our people yet visit our intended second port, 
that most beautiful bay of Rio de Janeiro? I fancy not. 
It is far out of the ordinary line,^ and the business im- 

202 



A ROUNDABOUT ROAD TO CHINA 

migration to South America is much more from Europe 
than from our own continent; but, having since visited 
many harbors, in many lands, I inchne to agree with my 
old captain of the Congress, there is none that equals Rio, 
viewed from the anchorage. Like Japan, I was happy 
enough to see Rio before it had been much improved, while 
the sequestered, primitive, tropical aspect still clung to it. 
I suppose the red-tiled roofs still rise as before from among 
the abundant foliage and the orange-trees, in the suburb 
of Bota Fogo; that the same deliciously suggestive smell 
of the sugar and rum hogsheads hangs about the streets; 
that the long, narrow Rua do Ouvidor is still brilliant with 
its multicolored feather flowers; and that at night the in- 
numerable lights dazzle irregularly upward, like the fire- 
flies which also there abound, over the hill-sides and prom- 
ontories that so charmingly break the shore line. But 
already in 1867 the strides since 1860 were strikingly visible. 
In the earher year I used frequently to visit a friend living 
at Nichtherohy, on the opposite shore of the bay. The 
ferriage then was by trig, long, sharp-bowed, black pad- 
dle steamers, with raking funnels. They were tremen- 
dously fussy, important, puffing little chaps, with that con- 
sequential air which so frequently accompanies moderate 
performance. The making a landing was a complicated 
and tedious job, characterized by the same amount of need- 
less action and of shortcoming in accomplishment. We 
would back and stop about twenty feet away from the 
end of a long, projecting pier. Then ropes would be got 
ashore from each extremity of the vessel; which done, she 
would back again, and the bow line would be shortened in. 
Then she would go ahead, and the like would be done by 
the stern fine. This would fetch her, say, ten feet away, 
when the same processes must be repeated. I never timed, 
for why should one be in a hurry in the tropics, where no 
one else is? but it seemed to me that sometimes ten min- 

203 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

utes were thus consumed. In 1867 these had disappeared, 
and had been replaced by Yankee double-ended boats, 
which ran into shps such as we have. Much more expedi- 
tious and sensible, but familiar and ugly to a degree, and 
not in the least entertaining; nor, I may add, congruous. 
They put you at once on the same absurd "jump" that 
we North Americans practise; whereas in the others we plac- 
idly puffed our cigars in an atmosphere of serenity. Time 
and tide may be so ridiculous as not to wait; we knew that 
waiting was enjoyment. The boat had time to burn, and 
so had we. At the later date, street-cars also had been 
introduced, and we were told were doing much to democ- 
ratize the people. The man whose ability to pay for a cab 
had once severed him from the herd now went along with 
it, and saved his coppers. The black coats and tall black 
silk hats, with white trousers and waistcoats, which always 
struck me as such an odd blend, were still in evidence. 

The Iroquois did not succeed in making Rio without a stop. 
The northeast trades hung well to the eastward after we 
left Guadeloupe, and blew hard with a big sea; for it was 
the northern winter. Running across them, as we were, 
the ship was held close to the wind under fore and aft can- 
vas. For a small vessel nothing is more uncomfortable. 
Rolling and butting at waves which struck the bow at an 
angle of forty-five degrees made walking, not impossible, in- 
deed, to practised sea legs, but still a constant succession of 
gymnastic balancings that took from it all pleasure. For 
exercise it was not needed. You had but to sit at your 
desk and write, with one leg stretched out to keep your 
position. The varied movements of the muscles of that 
leg, together with those of the rest of the body, in the con- 
tinued effort "to correct the horizontal deviation," as 
Boatswain Chucks phrased it, sent you to bed wearily con- 
scious that you had had constitutional enough. The large 
consumption of coal in proportion to the groimd covered 

204 



A ROUNDABOUT ROAD TO CHINA 

made a renewal necessary, and we went into Ciara, an open ' 
roadstead sheltered only by submerged coral reefs, on the 
northeast coast of Brazil. Here the incessant long trade 
swell sets in upon a beach only partly protected; and boat- 
ing is chiefly by catamarans, or jangadas, as the Portu- 
guese word is, — three or four long trunks of trees, joined 
together side by side, without keel, but with mast. These 
are often to be seen far outside, and ride safely over the 
heavy breakers. 

From Rio to Capetown, being in the month of May, cor- 
responding to our northern November, we had a South 
Atlantic passage which in boisterousness might hold its 
own with that between the United States and Europe, now 
familiar to so many. When clear of the tropics, one 
strikes in both hemispheres the westerly gales which are, 
so to say, the counter-currents of the atmosphere respond- 
ing to the trade-winds of the equatorial belt — almost as 
prevalent in direction, though much more variable in 
force. The early Spanish navigators characterized them 
as "vientos bravos," an epithet too literally and flatter- 
ingly rendered into English by our seamen as "the brave 
west winds;" the Spanish "bravo" meaning rude. For 
a vessel using sail, however, "brave" may pass; for, if they 
hustled her somewhat unceremoniously, they at least did 
speed her on her way. On two successive Thursdays their 
prevalence was interrupted by a tempest, which in each 
case surpassed for suddenness, violence, and shortness any- 
thing that I remember; for I have never met a tropical 
hurricane, nor the full power of a China typhoon. On 
the first occasion the sun came up yellow and wet, with 
a sulky expression Hke that of a child bathed against its 
will; but, as the wind was moderate, sail was made soon 
after daylight. Immediately it began to freshen, and so 
rapidly that we could scarce get the canvas in fast enough. 
By ten it was blowing furiously. To be heard by a person 
'4 205 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

standing at your elbow, you had to shout at the top of 
your voice. The wind shifted rapidly, a cyclone in minia- 
ture as to dimensions, though not as to strength; but the 
Iroquois had been hove-to on the right tack according to 
the law of storms. That is, the wind hauled aft; and as 
she followed, close to it, she headed to the sea instead of 
faUing into the trough. When square sails are set, this 
gradual movement in the same direction is still more im- 
portant; for, should the wind fly suddenly ahead, the sails 
may be taken aback, a very awkward situation in heavy 
weather. By five o'clock this gradual shifting had passed 
from east, by north, to west, where the gale died out; hav- 
ing lasted only about eight hours, yet with such vehemence 
that it had kicked up a huge sea. By 10 p.m. the stars 
were shining serenely, a gentle breeze barely steadying the 
ship, under increased canvas, in the huge billows which 
for a few hours continued to testify that things had been 
nasty. A spoiled child that has carried a point by squall- 
ing could scarcely present a more beaming expression than 
did the heavens; but our wet decks and clothes assured 
us that our discomfort had been real and was not yet 
over. 

Throughout the ordeal the little Iroquois — for small she 
was by modern standards — though at a stand-still, lay 
otherwise as unconcerned as a duck in a mill-pond; her 
screw turning slowly, a triangular rag of storm-sail showing 
to steady her, rolling deeply but easily, and bowing the 
waves with gentle movement up or down, an occasional 
tremor alone betraying the shock when an unusually heavy 
comber hit her in the eyes. Then one saw admiringly that 
the simile "like a sea-fowl" was no metaphor, but exact. 
None were better qualified to pronounce than we, for the 
South Atlantic abounds in aquatic birds. We were fol- 
lowed continuously by clouds of them, low flying, skirting 
the water, of varied yet sober plumage. The names of these 

206 



A ROUNDABOUT ROAD TO CHINA 

I cannot pretend to give, except the monarch of them all, 
in size and majesty of flight, the albatross, of unsullied white, 
as its name implies — the king of the southern ocean. 
Several of these enormous but graceful creatures were ever 
sweeping about us in almost endless flight, hardly moving 
their wings, but incHning them wide-spread, now this way, 
now that, like the sails of a windmill, to catch the breeze, 
almost never condescending to the struggle of a stroke. 
By this alone they kept up with us, running eight or nine 
knots. As a quiet demonstration of reserve power it was 
most impressive; while the watching of the intricate ma- 
noeuvres of these and their humbler companions afforded 
a sort of circus show, a relief always at hand to the mo- 
notony -of the voyage. 

As this has remained my only crossing of the South 
Atlantic, my experience cannot claim to be wide; but, as 
far as it goes, these animating accompaniments of a voy- 
age under sail are there far more abundant and varied than 
in the northern ocean. How far the steamer in southern 
latitudes may still share this privilege, I do not know; but 
certainly I now rarely see the petrel, unfairly called stormy, 
numbers of which hung ever near in the wake of a saiUng- 
ship on her way to Europe, keeping company easily with 
a speed of seven or eight knots, and with spare power 
enough to gyraXe continually in their wajrward flight. 
What instinct taught them that there was food there for 
them? and, if my observation agree with that of others, 
why have they disappeared from steamers? Is it the 
greater pace that wearies, or the commotion of the screw 
that daunts them? 

Our second Thursday gale. May 16th, exceeded the first 
in fury and duration. Beginning at daybreak, it lasted 
till after simdown, twelve hours in all; and during it the 
Iroquois took on board the only solid sea that crossed her 
rail during my more than two years' service in her. We 

207 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

sprung also our main mast-head, which made us feel flat- 
teringly Uke the ancient mariners, who, as we had read, 
were always "springing" (breaking) some spar or other. 
Ancient mariners and albatrosses are naturally mutually 
suggestive. Except for the greater violence, the conditions 
were much the same as a week before ; with the exception, 
however, that the sun shone brightly most of the time from 
a cloudless sky, between which and us there interposed a 
milky haze, the vapor of the spoon-drift. During the height 
of the storm the pressure of the wind in great degree kept 
down the sea, which did not rise threateningly till towards 
the end. For the rest, our voyage of thirty- three hundred 
miles, while it afforded us many samples of weather, pre- 
sented as a chief characteristic perpetual westerly gales, 
with gloomy skies and long, high following swell. Although 
the wind was such that close to it we should have been 
reduced to storm-sails, the Iroquois scudded easily before 
it, carrying considerable canvas. "Before it" must not 
be understood to mean ahead of the waves. These, as they 
raced along continually, swept by the ship, which usually 
lifted cleverly abaft as they came up; though at rare in- 
tervals a tiny bit of a crest would creep along over the 
poop and fall on the quarter-deck below — nothing to 
hurt. The onward movement of the billows, missing thus 
the stern, culminated generally about half-way forward, 
abreast the main-mast; and if the ship, in her continual 
steady but easy roll, happened just then to incline to one 
side, she would scoop in a few dozen buckets of water, 
enough to keep the decks always sloppy, as it swashed 
from side to side. 

From Rio to the Cape took us thirty-two days. This 
bears out the remark I find in an old letter that the 
Iroquois was very slow; but it attests also a series of vicis- 
situdes which have passed from my mind, leaving predom- 
inant those only that I have noted. Among other expe- 

208 



A ROUNDABOUT ROAD TO CHINA 

riences, practically all our mess crockery was smashed ; the 
continual rolling seemed to make the servants wilfully 
reckless. Also, having an inefficient caterer, our sea 
stores were exhausted on the way, with the ludicrous ex- 
ception of about a peck of nutmegs. Another singular in- 
cident remains in my memory. At dawn of the day before 
oiu* arrival, a mirage presented so exactly, and in the proper 
quarter, the appearance of Table Mountain, the landmark 
of Cape Town, that our captain, who had been there more 
than once, was sure of it. As by the reckoning it must 
be still over a hmidred miles distant, the navigating officer 
w^as summoned, to his great disconcertment, to be eye- 
witness of his personal error; and the chronometers fell 
under unmerited suspicion. The navigator was an in- 
veterate violinist. He had a curious habit of undressing 
early, and then, having by this symbolic act laid aside the 
cares of the day, as elbow space was lacking in his own cabin, 
he would play in the open ward-room for an hour or more 
before turning in; always standing, and attired in a white 
night-shirt of flowing dimensions. He was a tall, dark, 
handsome man, the contrast of his full black beard em- 
phasizing the oddness of his costume ; and so rapt was he 
in his performance that remarks addressed directly to him 
w^ere unheard. I often had to remind him at ten o'clock 
that music must not longer trouble the sleep of the mid- 
watch officers. On this occasion, with appearances so 
against him, perplexed but not convinced, after looking for 
a few moments he went below and sought communion with 
his beloved instrument; nor did the fading of the phantasm 
interrupt his fiddling. When announced, he listened ab- 
sently, and continued his aria unmoved by such trivialities. 
Cape Flyaway, as counterfeits like this are called, had lasted 
so long and looked so plausible that the order was given 
to raise steam; and when it vanished later, after the man- 
ner of its kind, the step was not countermanded, for the 

209 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

weather was calm and there were abundant reasons in our 
conditions for hurrying into port. 

At the season of our stay, May and June, the anchorage 
at Cape Town itself, being open to the northward, is ex- 
posed to heavy gales from that quarter, often fatal to 
shipping. I believe this defect has now been remedied by 
a breakwater, which in 1867 either had not been begun or 
was not far enough advanced to give security. Vessels 
therefore commonly betook themselves to Simon's Bay, on 
the other side of the Cape, where these winds blew off shore. 
Thither the Iroquois went; and as communication with 
Cape Town, some twenty miles away, was by stage, the op- 
portunity for ordinary visiting was indifferent. We went 
up by detachments, each staying several days. The great 
local natural feature of interest. Table Mountain, has since 
become familiar in general outline by the illustrations of the 
Boer War; from which I have inferred that similar forma- 
tions are common in South Africa, just as I remember at 
the head of Rio Bay, on the road to Petropolis, a repro- 
duction in miniature, both in form and color, of the huge 
red-brown Sugar-Loaf Rock that dominates the entrance 
from the sea. Seen as a novelty. Table Mountain was most 
impressive ; but it seems to me that Altar Mountain would 
more correctly convey its appearance. With rocky sides, 
which rose precipitate as the Palisades of the Hudson, the 
sky-line was horizontal, and straight as though drawn by 
a ruler. At times a white cloud descends, covering its top 
and creeping like loose drapery down the sides, resembling 
a table-cloth; which name is given it. I believe that is 
reckoned a sign of bad weather. 

I recall many things connected with our stay there, but 
chiefly trivialities. Most amusing, because so embarrass- 
ing to the unprepared, was an unlooked-for and starthng 
attention received from the British soldiery, whom I now 
met for the first time: for the war at home had hitherto 

210 



A ROUNDABOUT ROAD TO CHINA 

prevented the men of my date from having much foreign 
cruising. I was in uniform in the streets, confining myself 
severely to my own business, when I saw approaching a 
squad of redcoats under a non-commissioned officer. Being 
used to soldiers, I was observing them only casually, but 
still with the interest of novelty, when wholly unexpectedly 
I heard, "Eyes right!" and the entire group, as one man, 
without moving their heads, slewed their eyes quickly 
round and fastened them steadily on me ; the corporal also 
holding me with his glittering eye, while carrying his hand 
to his cap. Of course, in all salutes, from a civilian lifting 
his hat to a lady, to a military passing in review, the person 
saluting looks at the one saluted ; but to find one's self with- 
out warning the undivided recipient of the steady stare of 
some half-dozen men, transfixed by what Mr. Snodgrass 
called "the mild gaze of intelligence beaming from the 
eyes of the defenders of their country," was, however flat- 
tering, somewhat disturbing to one not naturally obtrusive. 
With us the salute would have been given, of course; but 
only by the non-commissioned officer, touching his cap. 
Afterwards I was on the lookout for this, and dodged it 
when I could. 

Both in Rio and at the Cape the necessity for repairs 
occasioned delays which militated somewhat against the 
full development of our cruise. Through this, I believe, we 
missed a stop at Siam, which, consequently, I have never 
visited ; and I know that towards the end our captain felt 
pressed to get along. Our next destination was Madagas- 
car; to reach which, under sail, it was necessary to run 
well to the eastward, in a latitude farther south than that 
of Cape Town, before heading north. We left somewhat too 
soon the westerly winds there prevaihng, and in conse- 
quence did not go to Tamatave, the principal port, on the 
east side of the great island, but passed instead through 
the Mozambique Channel. It was in attempting this same 

211 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

passage that the British frigate Aurora, in which was serv- 
ing the poet Falconer, the author of "The Shipwreck," dis- 
appeared with all on board; by what nautical fate over- 
taken has never been known. His first shipwreck, which 
he celebrated in verse, was on the coast of Greece, off Cape 
Colonna; the second in these far southern seas. 

The French occupation of Madagascar postdates our visit 
to it. The harbor we entered, St. Augustine's Bay, on 
the west side, was only nominally under control of the 
native dynasty at Antananarivo, in the centre of the isl- 
and; and the local inhabitants were little, if at all, above 
barbarism. Though dark in color, they had not the flat 
negro features. Wandering with a companion through a 
jungle, having lost our way, we came imexpectedly upon 
a group of brown people, scantily dressed, the most con- 
spicuous member of which was a woman carrying a spear 
a little taller than herself, the head of which was burnished 
till it shone like silver; whether a weapon, or simply a badge 
of rank, I do not know. They rose to meet us in friendly 
enough fashion, and had English sufficient to set us on our 
way. The place was frequented by whalers, who occasionally 
shipped hands from among the natives ; one such came on 
board the Iroquois, and within a limited range spoke Eng- 
lish fluently. Our chief acquaintance was known to us as 
Prince George, and I presume had some personal importance 
in the neighborhood. He was of use in obtaining supplies, 
hanging about the deck all day, obligingly ready at any 
moment to take a glass of wine or a cigar, and seemingly 
even a little sulky that he was not asked to table. The 
men dressed their hair in peculiar fashion, gathered together 
in httle globes about the size of a golf ball, distributed 
somewhat symmetrically over the skull, and plastered with 
a substance which looked like blue mud. As I refrained 
from close inspection, I cannot pronounce certainly what 
it was. 

212 



A ROUNDABOUT ROAD TO CHINA 

From St. Augustine's Bay we went on to the Comoro 
Islands, between the north end of Madagascar and the 
African main-land. I do not know what was then the pre- 
cise political status of this pleasant-looking group, except 
that one of them had for some years been under French 
control. Johanna, at which we stopped, possessed at the 
least a qualified self-government. We had a good sight of 
its surface, approaching from the south and skirting at 
moderate distance westward, to reach the principal anch- 
orage, Johanna Town, on the north. The island is lofty 
— five thousand feet — and of volcanic origin; bearing the 
family likeness which I have found in all such that I have 
seen. On a bright day, which we had, they are very pict- 
uresque to look on from the sea, with their deep gullies, 
ragged precipices, and varied hues; especially striking from 
the effects of light and shadow produced by the exagger- 
ated inequalities of the ground. It is hard to say which 
are the more attractive, these or the totally different low 
coral islands of the tropics, with their brilliant white sand, 
encircled by which, as by a setting of silver, the deep-green 
brush glows like an emerald. It is hard, however, to make 
other than a pleasing picture with a combination of blue 
water and land. Like flowers, they may be more or less 
tastefully arranged, but scarcely can be less than beau- 
tiful. 

In the way of landscape effect, Johanna had a special 
feature of its own. Up to a height of about fifteen hundred 
feet from the sea-level, the slopes were of a tawny hue, the 
color of grass when burned up by drought. Except scat- 
tered waving cocoanut palms which grew even on these 
hill-sides, no green thing was apparent, save in the ravines, 
where trees seemed to thrive, and so broke the monotony of 
tint with streaks of sombre verdure. Farther up, the peaks 
were thickly covered with a forest, which looked impene- 
trable. The abrupt contrast of the yellow lower land with 

213 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

this cap of tanglewood, itself at times covered, at times 
only dotted, with fleecy clouds, was singularly vivid. 

The inhabitants of the island were Arabs, mixed with 
some negro blood, and wore the Oriental costume now so 
familiar to us all in this age of illustration. The ship was 
besieged by them at once, and throughout our stay, at all 
hours that they were permitted to come on board. They 
were cleanly in person, as their religion prescribes, and ap- 
plied no offensive substance to their hair; on the contrary, 
some pleasant perfume was perceptible about their cloth- 
ing. The coloring generally was dark, although some, 
among whom was the ruler, called the sultan, have olive 
skins ; but the features were clear and prominent, the stat- 
ure and form good, the bearing manly; nor did they seem 
other than intelligent. The teeth, too, were fine, when not 
disfigured by the chewing of the betel nut, which, when 
long continued, stains them a displeasing dark red. Like 
all barbarians, they talked, talked, talked, till one was 
nearly deafened. On one occasion, a group of them fa- 
vored us with a theological exposition, marked by somewhat 
elementary conceptions. The ship was a perfect Babel at 
meal-times, when the intermission of work allowed the 
freest visiting. Every man who came brought at least a 
half-dozen fowl, with sweet potatoes, fruit, and eggs, to 
match; and as, in addition to our own crew bargaining, 
there were on the deck some fifty or sixty natives, all 
vociferating, bartering, beseeching, or yelling to the fifty 
others in canoes alongside, the tumult and noise may be 
conceived. The chickens, too, both cocks and hens, pres- 
ent by the hundred in basket-work cages, made no small 
contribution to the general uproar. Chickens, indeed, nu- 
merous though not large, are among the chief food com- 
modities of that region; the usual price, as I recollect, 
being a dollar the dozen. When we left Johanna, we must 
have had on board several hundred as sea-stock. Not 

214 



A ROUNDABOUT ROAD TO CHINA 

infrequently one would get out of its cage, and if pursued 
would often end by flapping overboard, so by drowning 
anticipating its appointed doom; but it was a pathetic 
sight to see the poor creature, upborne by its feathers so 
long as dry, floating on the waste of waters in the wake of 
the ship which seemed almost heartlessly to forsake it. 

The faith of the island being Mohammedan, we found it 
safe to give a large liberty to the crew. Especially, if I 
rightly recall, I availed myself of the circumstance to let 
go certain ne'er-do-wells whose conduct under temptation 
was not to be depended on. We had the unprecedented 
experience that they all came back on time and sober; 
thus avouching that the precepts of the Prophet concern- 
ing rum were obeyed in Johanna. Exemplary in this, it 
would be difficult to say, otherwise, on what precise rung 
of the ladder stretching from barbarism to civilization these 
people stood. In manner towards us they were pleas- 
ant and smiHng; not averse to the arts of diplomacy, but 
perhaps a httle transparent in their approaches to a de- 
sired object. I went on shore one Friday, their Sunday, 
which was inadvertent on my part, for their religious duties 
interfered with customary routine; one and another ex- 
cused themselves to me on the plea that they must go to 
pray. I was known, however, to be in authority on board, 
which produced for me some simple hospitality, principally 
not very inviting lemonade — attentions that I soon found 
to be not wholly disinterested. Next day one of my hosts 
came on board and interviewed me with many bows. " The 
Iroquois very fine ship, much better than English ship. 
Captain English very good man; and first lieutenant [my- 
self] he very good man;" and the comphmenter would like 
certain articles within the gift of the said very good man, 
together with a note to bearer, permitting him to come 
aboard at any time. 

Being by this some weeks away from Cape Town, we sent 

215 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

our wash ashore; a resort of desperation. It came back 
clean enough, but for ironing — well ; and as to starch, much 
in the predicament of Boatswain Chuck's frilled shirts 
after the gale, upon which, while flying in the breeze, he 
looked with a degree of professional philosophy that could 
express itself only by thrashing the cooper. Crumpled 
would be a mild expression for our linen. We remon- 
strated, but were met with a shrug of the shoulders and 
a deprecatory but imperturbable smile — "Yes; Johanna 
wash!" And "Johanna" we found we were expected to 
receive as a sufficient explanation for any deficiencies in 
any Hne. If not satisfactory to us, it was at least modest 
in them. 

Grave courtesies, ceremonious in conception, if rather 
rudimentary in execution, were exchanged between us and 
the authorities of Johanna. Our captain returned the visit 
of the official in charge of the place, and subsequently called 
upon the sultan, who came to the town while we were there. 
I went along on the first occasion. Upon reaching the 
beach we found a guard of some forty negro soldiers, whose 
equipment, as to shoes, resembled that of the Barbadian 
company immortalized in Peter Simple ; but in this instance 
there was no attempt at that decorous regard for externals 
which ordered those with both shoes and stockings to fall 
in in the front rank, and those with neither to keep in the 
rear. They were commanded by a young Arab, who seem- 
ed very anxious to do all in style, rising on tiptoe at the 
several orders, which he jerked out with vim, and to my 
surprise in English. When duly pointed, we marched off 
to the sound of a drum, accompanied by a peculiar monoto- 
nous wail on a kind of trumpet; the order of the proces- 
sion being, 1, music; 2, the soldiers, led by an old sergeant 
in a high state of excitement and coat-collar, which held 
the poor fellow's head like a vise; and, 3, our captain and 
his attendants. The visit to the sultan, two days later, 

216 



A ROUNDABOUT ROAD TO CHINA 

was marked by additional features, indicative, I presume, of 
the greater dignity of the event; the captain being now 
carried in a chair with a red silk umbrella over his head. 

Between three and four years before our visit, the Con- 
federate steamer Alabama had stopped at Johanna, and, 
so at least our friends told us, Semmes had promised them 
a Yankee whaler or two. Whether he found the whalers 
or not I cannot say; but to the Johannese it was a Bar- 
mecide feast, or like the anticipation of Sisera's ladies — 
" to every man a damsel or two." To use their own quaint 
English, the next thing they heard of the Alabamaj " he go 
down." 

We left Johanna with the southwest monsoon, which in 
the Indian Ocean and China Sea blows from June to 
September with the regularity of the trade-winds of the 
Atlantic, both in direction and force. There the favorable 
resemblance ends; for, in the region through which we were 
passing, this monsoon is overcast, usually gloomy, and ex- 
cessively damp. The northeast monsoon, which prevails 
during the winter months, is clear and dry. The con- 
sequent struggle with shoe-leather, and the deterioration of 
the same, is disheartening. But, though surcharged with 
moisture, rain does not fall to any great extent in the open 
sea, nor until the atmospheric current impinges on land, 
when it seems to be squeezed, like a sponge by the hand, 
with resultant precipitation. Our conditions were there- 
fore pleasant enough. Being under sail only, the wind 
went faster than we, giving a cooling breeze as it passed 
over; and it was as steady and moderate as it was fair for 
our next destination, Aden, to reach which we were now 
pointing for Cape Guardafui. The Iroquois ran along 
steadily northward, six to eight knots, followed by a 
big sea, but so regular that she rolled only with a slow^ 
steady swing, not disagreeable. The veiled sun showed 
sufficiently for sights, without burning heat, and by the 

217 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

same token we passed that luminary on our course; that 
is, he was north of us while at Johanna, and one day on 
this run we got north of him. This must have been after 
we had crossed the equator; for, being August, the sun 
was still north of the " Line." 

This reminds me that, the day we thus passed the sun, 
our navigator, usually very exact, applied his declination 
wrong at noon, which gave us a wrong latitude. For a 
few minutes the discrepancy between the observation and 
the log caused a shaking of heads; the log doubtless fell 
imder an unmerited suspicion, or else we had encountered 
a current not hitherto noted in the books, the usual 
solvent in such perplexities. I may explain for the un- 
learned in navigation that declination of a heavenly body 
corresponds in the celestial sphere to the latitude of 
an object on the terrestrial. The sun, being a leisurely 
celestial globe - trotter, continually varies his latitude — 
declination — within a zone bounded by the two tropics; 
and the rule runs that when his declination is of the same 
name (north or south) as his direction from the ship at 
noon, the declination is added or subtracted, I now forget 
which, in the computation that ascertains the vessel's pre- 
cise position. This has to be remembered when he is pass- 
ed overhead, in the zenith; for then the bearing changes, 
while his decUnation remains of the same name. If the 
resulting error is large, of course the mistake is detected 
immediately; a slight difference might pass unnoted with 
dangerous consequences. 

At Johanna, or possibly at St. Augustine's, some of our 
officers and men, moved by that queer propensity of 
mankind to acquire strange objects, however useless, had 
bought animals of the kind called mongoos. There were 
perhaps a half-dozen of these in all. The result was that 
most of them, one way or another, escaped and took refuge 
aloft in the rigging, where it was as hopeless to attempt 

218 



A ROUNDABOUT ROAD TO CHINA 

recapture as for a man to pursue a gray squirrel in a tree. 
The poor beggars had achieved their Hberty, however, with- 
out the proverbial crust of bread or cup of water; and in 
consequence, after fasting all day, gave themselves to pred- 
atory nocturnal forays, which were rather startling when 
unexpectedly aroused by them from sleep. The ward- 
room pantry was near my berth, and I remember being 
awaked by a great commotion and scuffling, as one or more 
utensils were upset and knocked about in the imhappy 
beast's attempt to get at water kept there in a little cask. 
No reconcilement between them and man was effected, and 
one by one they dropped overboard, the victims of acci- 
dent or suicide, noted or unnoted, to their dehverance and 
our relief. While they lasted it was pathetic to watch 
their furtive movements and unrelaxed vigilance, jeal- 
ously guarding the freedom which was held under such 
hopeless surroundings and must cost them so dear at last. 
When the ship had rounded Cape Guardafui and fair- 
ly entered the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, the alteration of 
weather conditions was immediate and startling. The heat 
became all at once intense and dry. From the latter cir- 
cumstance the relief was great. I remember that many 
years afterwards, having spent a month or more determin- 
ing a site for a navy-yard in Puget Sound, where the tem- 
perature is delightful but the atmosphere saturated, I 
experienced a similar sense of bodily comfort, when we 
reached Arizona, returning by the Southern Pacific Rail- 
road. One morning I got up from the sleeper and walked 
out into the rare, crisp air of a way station, delighted to 
find myself literally as dry as a bone, and a very old bone, 
too; tertiary period, let us say. The sudden change in the 
strait proved fatal to one of our officers. He had been aihng 
for a few days, but on the night after we doubled the cape 
woke up from a cahn sleep in wild delirium, and in a brief 
period died from the bursting of an aneurism; an effect 

219 



FROM SAIL TO STEA.M 

which the surgeon attributed to the abrupt increase of 
heat. I may add that, though dry, the air was felt by us 
to be debilitating. During the ten days passed in the gulf, 
young as I then was, I was indisposed to any unusual bod- 
ily or mental effort. AMiat breeze reached us, coming over 
desert from every direction, was like the blast of a furnace, 
although the height of the thermometer was not excessive. 
It was scarcely fair to Aden to visit it in midsummer, 
but our voyage had not been timed with reference to sea- 
sons or our comfort. I shall not weary a reader with any 
attempt at description of the treeless surroundings and 
barren lava crags that constitute the scenery; which, more- 
over, many may have seen for themselves. What chiefly 
interested me were the Jews and the camels. Like Gibral- 
tar, and in less measure Key West, Aden is a place where 
meet many and divers peoples from Asia, from Africa, and 
from Europe. Furthermore, it has had a long and checker- 
ed history; and this, at an important centre on a commer- 
cial route, tends to the gathering of incongruous elements. 
English, Arabs, Parsees from India, Somalese from Africa, 
— across the gulf, — sepoy soldiers, and Jews, all were to be 
met; and in varieties of costume for which we had not been 
prepared by our narrow experience of Oriental dress in 
Johanna. The Jews most attracted my attention — an at- 
traction of repulsion to the type there exhibited, though 
I am without anti-Semitic feeling. That Jesus Christ was 
a Jew covers His race for me. These were reported to 
have enjoyed in earlier times a period of much prosperity, 
which had been destroyed in one of the dramatic political 
reverses frequent in Eastern annals. Since then they had 
remained a degraded and abject class. Certainly, they 
were externally a very peculiar and unprepossessing peo- 
ple. The physiognomy commonly associated with the 
name Jew was very evident, though the cast of feature had 
been brutalized by ages of oppression and servility. A 

220 



A ROUNDABOUT ROAD TO CHINA 

singular distinctive mark was the wearing on both sides 
of the forehead long curls falling to the shoulders. Cring- 
ing and subservient in manner, and as traders, there 
was yet apparent behind the Uriah Heap exterior a fierce 
cruelty of expression which would make a mob hideous, 
if once let loose. A mob, indeed, is ever terrible; but these 
men reconstituted for me, with added vividness, the scene 
and the cry of "Crucify Him!" 

Although I was new to the East, camels in their un- 
couth form and shambling gait had been made familiar by 
menageries; but in Aden I first saw them in the circum- 
stances which give the sense of appropriateness necessary 
to the completeness of an impression, and, indeed, to its en- 
joyment. Environment is assuredly more essential to ap- 
preciation than is commonly recognized. Does beer taste 
as good in America as in England? I think not, unless 
perhaps in Newport, Rhode Island. Climatic, doubtless. 
I have been told by Englishmen that the very best pine- 
apples to be had are raised in England under glass. Very 
good; but where is your tropical heat to supply the ap- 
preciative palate? I remember, in a railway train in 
Guatemala, some women came along with pineapples. I 
gave five cents, expecting one fruit ; she, unwilling to make 
change, forced upon me three. Small, yes; pygmies doubt- 
less to the hot-house aristocrats; but at a dinner-table with 
artificial heat could one possibly want them as much, or 
enjoy them as keenly, as under the burning southern sun, 
eaten Uke an apple, the juice streaming to the ground? 
A camel sauntering down Broadway would be odd only; 
a camel in an Eastern street has the additional setting 
needed to fix him accurately in yom* gallery of mental pict- 
ures; though, for the matter of that, I suppose a desert 
would be a still more fitting surrounding. Aden has no 
natural water supply for daily use ; one of the sights are the 
great tanks for storing it, constructed by some by-gone 

'5 221 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

dynasty. When we were there the place rehed for emer- 
gencies upon the more modern expedient of condensers, 
but for ordinary consumption was mainly dependent upon 
that brought in skins from the adjacent country on the 
backs of camels, which returned charged with merchandise. 
I watched one of these ships of the desert being laden for 
the homeward voyage. He was on his knees, placidly 
chewing the cud of his last meal, but with a watchful eye 
behind him upon his master's movements. Eternal vigi- 
lance the price of liberty, or at least the safeguard against 
oppression, was clearly his conviction; nor did he believe 
in that outworn proverb not to yell before you are hurt. 
As each additional package, small or big, was laid on the 
accumulating burden, he stretched out his long neck, 
craned it round to the rear, opening his mouth as though 
to bite, to which he seemed full fain, at the same time 
emitting a succession of cries more wrathful even than 
dolorous, though this also they were. But the wail of the 
sufferer went unheeded, and deservedly ; for when the load 
was complete to the last pound he rose, obedient to signal, 
and stepped off quietly, evidently at ease. He had had 
his grumble, and was satisfied. 

An impression which accumulates upon the attentive 
traveller following the main roads of maritime commerce is 
the continual outcropping of the British soldier. It is not 
that there is so much of him, but that he is so man5rwhere. 
In our single voyage, at places so apart as Cape Town, Aden, 
Bombay, Singapore, Hong Kong. Although not on our 
route, nevertheless linked to the four last named by the 
great ocean highway between East and West, consecutive 
even in those distant days before the Suez Canal, he was 
already in force in Gibraltar and Malta; since which he is 
to be found in Cypress also and in Egypt. He is no 
chance phenomenon, but an obvious effect of a noteworthy 
cause ; an incident of current history, the exponent, micon- 

222 



A ROUNDABOUT ROAD TO CHINA 

sciously to himself, of many great events. In our country 
we have wisely learned to scrutinize with distrust arguments 
for manifest destiny; but it is, nevertheless, well to note and 
ponder a manifest present, which speaks to a manifest past. 
From Aden the Iroquois ran along the southern coast of 
Arabia to Muscat, within the entrance of the Persian Gulf. 
Here, after leaving the open sea, we met a recurrence of 
the heat, and, in general features, of the scenery we had 
left at Aden; the whole confirming the association of the 
name Arabia with scorching and desert. The Cove of Mus- 
cat, though a mere indentation of the shore-line, furnishes 
an excellent harbor, being sheltered by a rocky island 
which constitutes a natural breakwater. There is con- 
siderable trade, and the position is naturally strong for de- 
fence, with encirchng cliffs upon which forts have been 
built; but from our experience, told below, it is probable that 
their readiness did not correspond to their formidable as- 
pect. From the anchorage of the Iroquois the town was 
hardly to be descried, the gray color of the stone used in 
construction blending with the background of the moun- 
tains, from which probably it had been quarried ; but nearer 
it is imposing in appearance, there being several minarets, 
and some massive buildings, among which the ruins of a 
Portuguese cathedral bear their mute testimony to a 
transitory era in the long history of the East. During our 
stay there was some disturbance in the place. Our in- 
formation was that the reigning sovereign had killed his 
father two years before; and that in consequence, either 
through revenge or jealousy, his father's brother kept him 
constantly stirred up by invasion, or threats of invasion, 
from the inner country. Such an alarm postponed for the 
moment a ceremonious visit which our captain was to 
pay, but it took place next day. As it called for full 
uniform, I begged off. Those who w^ent returned with 
unfavorable reports, both of the town and of the sultan. 

223 



FROM SAIL TO STEAIM 

A rather funny incident here attended our exchange of 
civihties. In ports where there is cause to think that the 
expenditure of powder may be inconvenient to your hosts, 
or that for any reason they may not return a salute, it is 
customary first to inquire whether the usual national honors 
^'to the flag" will be acceptable and duly answered, gun for 
gun. In Aden, being British, of course no questions were 
asked; but in Muscat I presume they were, for failure to 
give full measure creates a diplomatic incident and corre- 
spondence. At all events, we saluted — twenty-one gims; 
to which the castle replied. When the tale was but half 
complete there came from one of its cannon a huge puff 
of smoke, but no accompanying report. "Shall I count 
that?" shouted the quartermaster, whose special duty was 
to keep tally — that we got our full pound of flesh. A gen- 
eral laugh followed; the impression had resembled that 
produced by an impassioned orator, the waving of whose 
arms you see, without hearing the words which give point 
to his gesticulations, and the quartermaster's query drove 
home the absurdity. It was solemnly decided, however, 
that that should be reckoned a gun. The intention was 
good, if result was imperfect. We had been done out of 
our noise, but we had had our smoke; and, in these days of 
smokeless powder, it is hopeful to record an instance of 
noiseless. 

In those few indolent days which we drowsed away in 
the heat of Muscat, one thing I noticed was the vivid green 
of the water, especially in patches near the shore, and in 
the crevices of the rocky basin. I wonder did Moore have 
a hint of this, or draw upon his imagination? Certainly it 
was there — a green more brilliant than any I have ever seen 
elsewhere, and of different shade. 

"No pearl ever lay under Oman's green water, 
More pure in its shell than thy spirit in thee." 
224 



A ROUNDABOUT ROAD TO CHINA 

After the comparatively sequestered series of St. Augus- 
tine's Bay, the Comoros, Aden, and Muscat, our next port, 
Bombay, seemed Uke returning to city hubbub and accus- 
tomed ways. True, Indian hfe was strange to most of our 
officers, if not to all; but there was about Bombay that 
which made you feel you had got back into the world, 
albeit in many particulars as different from that you had 
hitherto known as Rip Van Winkle found after his long 
slumber. Then, a decade only after the great mutiny, 
travel to India for travel's sake was much more rare than 
now. The railway system, that great promoter of journey- 
ings, was not complete. Two years later, when returning 
from China, I found opportunity to go overland from 
Calcutta to Bombay; but in the interior had to make a 
long stage by carriage between Jubbulpore and Nagpore. 
Since that time many have visited and many have written. 
I shall therefore spare myself and my possible readers the 
poor portrayal of that which has been already and better 
described. Johnson's advice to Boswell, "Tell what you 
have observed yourself," I take to mean something differ- 
ent from those externals the sight of which is common to 
all; unless, as in the Corsica of Boswell, few go to see them. 
What you see is that which you personally have the faculty 
of perceiving; depends upon you as much as upon the object 
itself. It may not be worth reporting, but it is all you 
have. I do not think I remember of Bombay anything 
thus pecuHarly my own. I do recall the big snakes we saw 
lying apparently asleep on the sea, fifty or sixty miles from 
land. Perhaps readers who have not visited the East may 
not know that such modified sea-serpents are to be seen 
there, as is a smaller variety in the Strait of Malacca. 

From Bombay we made a long leg to Singapore. We 
had sailed in early February; it was now late September, 
and our captain, as I have said before, began to feel anx- 
ious to reach the station. Owing to this haste, we omitted 

225 



FROM SAIL TO STEA^^I 

Ceylon and Calcutta, which did not correspond to the ex- 
pectation or the wishes of the admiral ; and we missed — as 
I think — orders sent us to take in Siam before coming to 
Hong Kong. It is very doubtful whether, had we received 
them, we should have seen more of interest than awaited 
us shortly after our arrival in Japan. At all events, as 
in duty bound, I shall imitate my captain, and skip rap- 
idly over this intervening period. There is in it nothing 
that would justify my formed intention not to enlarge 
upon that which others have seen and told. 

We made the run to Singapore at the change of the 
monsoon, towards the end of September ; and at that time 
a quiet passage is likely, unless you are so milucky as 
to encounter one of the cyclones which frequently attend 
the break-up of the season at this transition period. There 
is a tendency nowadays to discredit the equinox as a storm- 
breeder. As regards the particular day, doubtless recog- 
nition of a general fact may have lapsed into superstition 
as to a date; but in considering the phenomena of the 
monsoons, the great fixed currents of air blowing alternate- 
ly to or from the heated or cooled continent of Asia, it 
seems only reasonable, when the two are striving for pre- 
dominance, to expect the uncertain and at times terrific 
weather which as a matter of experience does occur about 
the period of the autumnal equinox in the India and China 
seas. But after we had made our southing from Bombay 
our course lay nearly due east, with a fresh, fair, west wind, 
within five degrees of the equator, a zone wherein cyclonic 
disturbance seldom intrudes. One of the complaints made 
by residents against the climate of Singapore, so pleasant 
to a stranger, is the wearisome monotony. Close to the 
equator, it has too much sameness of characteristic; tou- 
jours perdrix. Winter doubtless adds to our appreciation 
of summer. For all that, I personally am ready to dis- 
pense with snow. 

226 



A ROUNDABOUT ROAD TO CHINA 

From Singapore, another commercial centre with variety 
of inhabitants, we carried the same smooth water up to 
Manila, where we stopped a few days for coal. This was 
the first of two visits paid while on .the station to this port, 
which not our wildest imagination expected ever to see 
under our flag. Long as American eyes had been fixed 
upon Cuba, in the old days of negro slavery, it had occurred 
to none, I fancy, to connect possession of that island with 
these distant Spanish dependencies. Here our quiet en- 
vironment was lost. The northeast monsoon had set in in 
full force when we started for Hong Kong, and the run 
across was made under steam and fore-and-aft canvas, 
which we were able to carry close on the wind ; a wet pas- 
sage, throwing a good deal of water about, but with a brill- 
iant sky and delightful temperature. It would be hard 
to exaggerate the beauty of the weather which this wind 
brings. In the northern American states we have autum- 
nal spells Hke it; but along the Chinese coast it continues 
in uninterrupted succession of magnificent days, with hard- 
ly a break for three or four months; an invigorating breeze 
always blowing, the thermometer ranging between 50° and 
60°, a cloudless sky, the air perfectly dry, so that furniture 
and wood fittings shrink, and crack audibly. As rain does 
not fall during this favored season, the dust becomes ob- 
jectionable; but that drawback does not extend to ship- 
board. The man must be unreasonable who doubts life 
being worth living during the northeast monsoon. Hong 
Kong is just within the tropics, and experiences probably 
the coolest weather of any tropical port. Key West, in 
the same latitude, is well enough in a Gulf of Mexico north- 
er; that is, if you too are well. The last time I ever saw 
General Winfield Scott, once our national military hero, 
was there, during a norther. I had called, and found him in 
misery; his gigantic frame swathed in heavy clothing, his 
face pallid with cold. He explained that he liked always 

227 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

to be in a gentle perspiration, and had come to Key West 
in search of such conditions. These the place usually af- 
fords, but the houses are not built to shut out the chill 
which accompanies a hard norther. The general was then 
eighty, and died within the year. 



CHINA AND JAPAN ' 

1867-1869 

The Iroquois had been as nearly as possible nine months 
on her way from New York to Hong Kong. A ship of the 
same class, the Wachuseitj which left the station as we 
reached it, had taken a year, following much the same 
route. Her first lieutenant, who during the recent Span- 
ish War became familiarly known to the public as Jack 
Phihp, told me that she was within easy distance of Hong 
Kong the day before the anniversary of leaving home. 
Her captain refased to get up steam; for, he urged, it 
would be such an interesting coincidence to arrive on the 
very date, month and day, that she sailed the year before. |j 

I fear that man would have had no scruple about con- 
triving an opportunity. 

As the anchor dropped, several Chinese boats clustered 
alongside, eager to obtain their share of the ship's custom. 
It is the habit in ships of war to allow one or more boat- 
men of a port the privilege of bringing off certain articles 
for private purchase; such as the various specialties of the 
place, and food not embraced in the ship's ration. From 
the number of consumers on board a vessel, even of mod- 
erate size, this business is profitable to the small traders 
who ply it, and who from time immemorial have been 
known as bumboatmen. A good name for fair dealing, 
and for never smuggling intoxicants, is invaluable to them ; 
and when thus satisfactory they are passed on from ship 

229 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

to ship, through long years, by letters of recommendation 
from first lieutenants. Their dealings are chiefly with the 
crew, the officers' messes being provided by their stew- 
ards, who market on shore; but at times officers; too, will in 
this way buy something momentarily desired. I remem- 
ber an amusing experience of a messmate of mine, who, 
being discontented with the regular breakfast set before 
him, got some eggs from the bumboat. Already on a 
growl, he was emphatic in directing that these should be 
cooked very soft, and great was his wrath when they came 
back hard as stones. Upon investigation it proved that 
they were already hard-boiled when bought. The cable 
was not yet secured when these applicants crowded to the 
gangway, brandishing their certificates, and seeking each 
to be first on deck. The captain, who had not left the 
bridge, leaned over the rail, watching the excited and shout- 
ing crowd scrambling one over another, and clambering 
from boat to boat, which were bobbing and chafing up 
and down, rubbing sides, and spattering the water that 
was squeezed and squirted between them. The scene was 
familiar to him, for he was an old China cruiser, only re- 
newing his acquaintance. At length, turning to me, he 
commented, "There you have the regular China smell; 
you will find it wherever you go." And I did; but how 
describe it — and why should I? 

At this time the Japanese had conceded two more treaty 
ports, in the Inland Sea — Osaka and Kobe; and as the for- 
mal opening was fixed for the beginning of the new year 
— 1868 — most of the squadron had already gone north. 
We therefore found in Hong Kong only a single vessel, the 
Monocacy, an iron double-ender; a class which had its 
beginning in the then recent War of Secession, and dis- 
appeared with it. Some six weeks before she had passed 
through a furious typhoon, running into the centre of it; or, 
more accurately, I fancy, having the centre pass over her. 

230 



CHINA AND JAPAN 

Perhaps it may not be a matter of knowledge to all readers 
that for these hurricanes, as for many other heavy gales, 
the term cyclone is exact; that the wind does actually 
blow round a circle, but one of so great circumference that 
at each several point it seems to follow a straight Hne. 
Vessels on opposite sides of the circle thus have the wind 
from opposite directions. In the centre there is usually 
a calm space, of diameter proportioned to that of the gen- 
eral disturbance. As the whole storm body has an on- 
ward movement, this centre, calm or gusty as to wind, but 
confused and tumultuous as to wave, progresses with it; 
and a vessel which is so unhappy as to be overtaken finds 
herself, after a period of helpless tossing by conflicting 
seas, again subjected to the full fury of the wind, but from 
the quarter opposite to that which has already tried her. 
Although at our arrival the Monocacy had been fully re- 
paired, and was about to follow the other vessels, her offi- 
cers naturally were still full of an adventure so exceptional 
to personal experience. She owed her safety mainly to the 
strength and rigidity of her iron hull. A wooden vessel of 
like construction would probably have gone to pieces; for 
the wooden double-enders had been run up in a hurry for a 
war emergency, and were often weak. As the capable com- 
mander of one of them said to me, they were "stuck to- 
gether with spit." Battened dow^n close, with the seas 
coming in deluges over both bows and both quarters at the 
same time, the Monocacy went through it like a tight- 
corked bottle, and came out, not all right, to be sure, but 
very much alive; so much so, indeed, that she was carried 
on the Navy Register for thirty years more. She never 
returned home, however, but remained on the China 
station, for which she was best suited by her particular 
qualities. 

By the time the Iroquois, in turn, was ready to leave Hong 
Kong — November 26th — the northeast monsoon had made 

231 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

in full force, and dolorous were the prognostications to us 
by those who had had experience of butting against it in 
a northward passage. It is less severe than the "brave" 
west winds of our own North Atlantic; but to a small vessel 
like the Iroquois, with the machinery of the day, the mon- 
soon, blowing at times a three-quarters gale, was not an 
adversary to be disregarded, for all the sunshiny, bluff 
heartiness with which it buffeted you, as a big boy at 
school breezily thrashes a smaller for his own good. To- 
day we have to stop and think, to realize the immense 
progress in size and power of steam-vessels since 1867. 
We forget facts, and judge doings of the past by standards 
of the present; an historical injustice in other realms than 
that of morals. 

In our passage north, however, we escaped the predicted 
disagreeables by keeping close to the coast; for currents, 
whether of atmosphere or of water, for some reason slacken 
in force as they sweep along the land. I do not know 
why, unless it be the result of friction retarding their flow; 
the fact, however, remains. So, dodging the full brunt of 
the wind, we sneaked along inshore, having rarely more 
than a single-reef topsail breeze, and with little jar save 
the steady thud of the machinery. A constant view of 
the land was another advantage due to this mode of pro- 
gression, and it was the more complete because we com- 
monly anchored at night. Thus, as we slowly dragged 
north, a continuous panorama was unrolled before our 
eyes. 

Another very entertaining feature was the flight of fish- 
ing-boats, which at each daybreak put out to sea, literally 
in flocks; so numerous were they. As I was every morn- 
ing on deck at that hour, attending the weighing of the 
anchor, the sight became fixed upon my memory. The 
wind being on their beam, and so fresh, they came lurch- 
ing along in merry mood, leaping livelily from wave to wave, 

232 



CHINA AND JAPAN 

dashing the water to either hand. Besides the poetry of mo- 
tion, their peculiar shape, their hulls with the natural color 
of the wood, — because oiled, not painted, — their bamboo 
mat sails, which set so much flatter than our own canvas, 
were all picturesque, as well as striking by novelty. Most 
characteristic, and strangely diversified in effect, as they 
bowled saucily by, were the successive impressions pro- 
duced by the custom of painting an eye on each side of the 
bow. An alleged proverb is in pigeon English: "No have 
eye, how can see? no can see, how can sail?" When head- 
ing towards you, they really convey to an imagination of 
ordinary quickness the semblance of some unknown sea 
monster, full of life and purpose. Now you see a fellow 
charging along, having the vicious look of a horse with his 
ears back. Anon comes another, the quiet gaze of which 
suggests some meditative fish, lazily ghding, enjoying a 
siesta, with his belly full of good dinner. Yet a third has 
a hungry air, as though his meal was yet to seek, and in 
passing turns on you a voracious side glance, measuring 
your availability as a morsel, should nothing better offer. 
The boat life of China, indeed, is a study by itself. In very 
many cases in the ports and rivers, the family is born, bred, 
fed, and fives in the boat. In moving her, the man and 
his wife and two of the elder children will handle the oars; 
while a little one, sometimes hardly more than an infant, 
will take the helm, to which his tiny strength and cunning 
skill are sufficient. Going off late one night from Hong 
Kong to the ship, and having to lean over in the stern to 
get hold of the tiller-lines, I came near putting my whole 
weight on the baby, lying unperceived in the bottom. 
Those sedate Chinese children, with their tiny pigtails and 
their old faces, but who at times assert their common hu- 
manity by a wholesome crj^ ; how funny two of them looked, 
lying in the street fighting, fury in each face, teeth set and 
showing, nostrils distended with rage, and a hand of each 

233 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

gripping fast the other's pigtail, which he seemed to be 
trying to drag out by the roots; at the moment not " Celes- 
tials/' unless after the pattern of Virgil's Juno. 

The habit of whole families living together in a boat, 
though sufficiently known to me, was on one occasion real- 
ized in a manner at once mortifying and ludicrous. The 
eagerness for trade among the bumboatmen, actual and 
expectant, sometimes becomes a nuisance; in their efforts 
to be first they form a mob quite beyond the control of 
the ship, the gangways and channels of which they none 
the less surround and grab, deaf to all remonstrance by 
words, however forcible. This is particularly the case the 
first day of arrival, before the privilege has been determined. 
In one such instance my patience gave way; the din along- 
side was indescribable, the confusion worse confounded, 
and they could not be moved. There was working at the 
moment one of those small movable hand -pumps signifi- 
cantly named "Handy Billy," and I told the nozzle-man 
to turn the stream on the crowd. Of course, nothing could 
please a seaman more ; it was done with a will, and the full 
force of impact struck between the shoulders of a portly 
individual standing up, back towards the ship. A prompt 
upset revealed that it was a middle-aged woman, a fact 
which the pump-man had not taken in, owing to the mis- 
leading similarity of dress between the two sexes. I was 
disconcerted and ashamed, but the remedy was for the 
moment complete ; the boats scattered as if dynamite had 
burst among them. The mere showing of the nozzle was 
thereafter enough. 

The Iroquois was about a week in the monsoon, a day 
or so having been expended in running into Fuchau for 
coal. She certainly seemed to have lost the speed credited 
to her in former cruises; the cause for which was plausibly 
thought to be the decreased rigidity of her hull, owing to 
the wear and tear of service. In the days of sailing-ships 

234 



CHINA AND JAPAN 

there was a common professional belief that lessened stiff- 
ness of frame tended to speed; and a chased vessel some- 
times resorted to sawing her beams and loosening her fast- 
enings to increase the desired play. But, however this may 
have been, the thrust of the screw tells best when none of 
its effect is lost in a structural yielding of the ship's body ; 
when this responds as a solid whole to the forward impulse. 
In this respect the Iroquois was already out of date, though 
otherwise serviceable. 

On the eleventh day, December 7th, we reached Naga- 
saki, whence we sailed again about the middle of the 
month for Hiogo, or Kobe, where the squadrons of the 
various nations were to assemble for the formal opening. 
With abundant time before us, we passed in leisurely fash- 
ion through the Inland Sea, at the eastern end of which 
lay the newly opened ports. Anchoring each night, we 
missed no part of the scenery, with its alternating breadths 
and narrows, its lofty slopes, terraced here and wooded 
there, the occasional smihng lowlands, the varied and vivid 
greens, contrasting with the neutral tints of the Japanese 
dwellings; all which combine to the general effect of that 
singular and entrancing sheet of water. The Japanese 
junks added their contribution to the novelty with their 
single huge bellying sail, adapted apparently only to sail- 
ing with a free wind, the fairer the better. 

Hiogo and Kobe, as I understood, are separate names of 
two continuous villages; Kobe, the more eastern, being the 
destined port of entry. They are separated by a water- 
course, broad but not deep, often dry, the which is to 
memory dear; for following along it one day, and so up 
the hills, I struck at length, well within the outer range, 
an exquisite Japanese valley, profound, semicircular, and 
terraced, closed at either end by a passage so narrow that 
it might well be called a defile. The suddenness with which 
it burst upon me, Uke the South Sea upon Balboa, the feel- 

235 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

ing of remoteness inspired by its isolation, and its own 
intrinsic beauty, struck home so forcible a prepossession 
that it remained a favorite resort, to which I guided sev- 
eral others; for it must be borne in mind that up to our 
coming the hill tracks of Kobe knew not the feet of for- 
eigners, and there was still such a thing as first discovery. 
Some time afterwards, when I had long returned home, a 
naval officer told me that the place was known to him 
and others as Mahan's Valley; but I have never heard it 
has been so entered on the maps. Shall I describe it? 
Certainly not. When description is tried, one soon realizes 
that the general sameness of details is so great as quite 
to defy convincing presentation, in words, of the particu- 
lar combination which constitutes any one bit of scenery. 
Scenery in this resembles a collection of Chinese puzzles, 
where a few elementary pieces, through their varied assem- 
blings, yield most diverging forms. Given a river, some 
mountains, a few clumps of trees, a little sloping field under 
cultivation, an expanse of marsh — in Japan the universal 
terrace — and with them many picturesque effects can be 
produced ; but description, mental reahzation, being a mat- 
ter of analysis and synthesis, is a process which each man 
performs for himself. The writer does his part, and thinks 
he has done well. Could he see the picture which his words 
call up in the mind of another, the particular Chinese figure 
put together out of the author's data, he might be less 
satisfied. And should the reader rashly become the visitor, 
he will have to meet Wordsworth's disappointment. " And 
is this — Yarrow? this, the scene?" "Although 'tis fair, 
'twill be another Yarrow." Should any reader of mine go 
hereafter to Kobe, and so wish, let him see for himself; he 
shall go with no preconceptions from me. If the march 
of improvement has changed that valley, Japan deserves 
to be beaten in her next war. 
As I recall attending a Christmas service on board the 

236 



CHINA AND JAPAN 

British flag-ship Rodney at Kobe, we must have anchored 
there a few days before that fixed for the formal opening; 
but, unless my memory much deceive me, visiting the 
shore after the usual fashion was permitted without await- 
ing the New Year ceremony. At this time Kobe and Hiogo 
were in high festival; and that, combined with the fact that 
the inhabitants had as yet seen few foreigners, gave un- 
usual animation to the conditions. We were followed by 
curious crowds, to whom we were newer even than they to 
us; for the latest comers among us had seen Nagasaki, but 
strangers from other lands had been rare to these villagers. 
In explanation of the rejoicings, it was told us that slips 
of paper, with the names of Japanese deities written on 
them, had recently fallen in the streets, supposed by the 
people to come from the skies; and that different men had 
found in their houses pieces of gold, also bearing the name 
of some divinity. These tokens were assumed to indicate 
great good luck about to light upon those places or houses. 
By an easy association of ideas, the approaching opening 
of the port might seem to have some connection with the 
expected benefits, and inclines one to suspect human in- 
strumentality in creating impressions which might counter- 
act the long-nurtured jealousy of foreign intrusion. What- 
ever the truth, the external rollicking celebrations were as 
apparent as was the general smiling courtesy so noticeable 
in the Japanese, and which in this case was common to 
both the throng in ordinary dress and the masqueraders. 
Men and women, young and old, in gay, fantastic costumes, 
faces so heavily painted as to have the effect of masks, were 
running about in groups, sometimes as many as forty or 
fifty together, dancing and mumming. They addressed us 
frequently with a phrase, the frequent repetition of which 
impressed it upon our ears, but, in our ignorance of the 
language, not upon our understandings. At times, if one 
laughed, liberties were taken. These the customs of the 
i6 237 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

occasion probably justified, as in the carnivals of other 
peoples, which this somewhat resembled; but there was 
no general concourse, as in the Corso at Rome, which I 
afterw^ards saw — merely numerous detachments moving 
with no apparent relation to one another. Once only a 
companion and myself met several married women, known 
as such by their blackened teeth, who bore long poles with 
feathers at one end, much Hke dusters, with which they 
tapped us on the head. These seemed quite beside them- 
selves with excitement, but all in the best of humor. 

Viewed from the distance, the general effect was very 
pretty, like a stage scene. The long main street, forming 
part of the continuous imperial highway known as the 
Tokaido, was jammed with people; the sober, neutral 
tints of the majority in customary dress lighted up, here 
and there, by the brilliant, diversified colors of the perform- 
ers, as showy uniforms do an assembly of civilians. The 
weather, too, was for the most part in keeping. The mon- 
soon does not reach so far north, yet the days were Hke it; 
usually sunny, and the air exhilarating, with frequent frost 
at dawn, but towards noon genial. Such we found the 
prevalent character of the winter in that part of Japan, 
though with occasional spells of rain and high winds, 
amounting to gales of two or three days' duration. 

Unhappily, these cheerful beginnings were the precur- 
sors of some very sad events; indeed, tragedies. A week 
after the New Year ceremonies at Kobe, the American 
squadron moved over some twelve miles to Osaka, the 
other opened port, at. which our minister then was. Un- 
like Kobe, where the water permits vessels to lie close to 
the beach, Osaka is up a river, at the mouth of which is a 
bar; and, owing to the shoalness of the adjacent sea, the 
anchorage is a mile or two out. From it the town cannot 
be seen. The morning after our arrival, a Thursday, it 
came on to blow very hard from the westward, dead on 

238 



CHINA AND JAPAN 

shore, raising a big sea which prevented boats crossing the 
bar. The gale continued over Friday, the wind moderat- 
ing by the following daylight. The swell requires more 
time to subside; but it was now Saturday, the next day 
would be Sunday, and the admiral, I think, was a religious 
man, unwilling to infringe upon the observance of the day, 
for himself or for the men. His service on the station was 
up, and, indeed, his time for retirement, at sixty-two, had 
arrived; there remained for him only to go home, and for 
this he was anxious to get south. Altogether, he decided 
to wait no longer, and ordered his barge manned. Danger 
from the attempt was apprehended on board the flag-ship 
by some, but the admiral was not one of those who en- 
courage suggestions. Her boatswain had once cruised in 
whalers, which carry to perfection the art of managing 
boats in a heavy sea, and of steering with an oar, the safest 
precaution if a bar must be crossed ; and he hung round, in 
evidence, hoping that he might be ordered to steer her, but 
she shoved off as for an ordinary trip. The mishap which 
followed, however, was not that most feared. Just before 
she entered the breakers, the flag-lieutenant, conscious of 
the risk, was reported to have said to the admiral, "If 
you intend to go in before the sea, as we are now running, 
we had better take off our swords;'' and he himself did so, 
anticipating an accident. As she swept along, her bow 
struck bottom. Her way being thus stopped for an in- 
stant, the sea threw her stern round; she came broadside 
to and upset. Of the fifteen persons hurled thus into the 
wintry waves, only three escaped with their lives. Both 
the officers perished. 

The gale continued to abate, and the bodies being all 
soon recovered, the squadron returned to Kobe to bury its 
dead. The funeral ceremonies were unusually impressive in 
themselves, as well as because of the sorrowful catastrophe 
which so mournfully signalized the entry of the foreigner 

239 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

into his new privilege. The day was fair and cloudless, 
the water perfectly smooth; neither rain nor wave marred 
the naval display, as they frequently do. Thirty -two 
boats, American and British, many of them very large, 
took part in the procession from the ships to the beach. 
The ensigns of all the war-vessels in port, American and 
other, were at half-mast, as was the admiral's square blue 
flag at the mizzen, which is never lowered while he re- 
mains on duty on board. As the movement began, a first 
gun was fired from the Hartford, which continued at min- 
ute intervals until she had completed thirteen, a rear- 
admiral's salute. When she had finished, the Shenandoah 
took up the tale, followed in turn by the Oneida and Iro- 
quois, the mournful cadence thus covering almost the whole 
period up to the customary volleys over the graves. As 
saluting was the first lieutenant's business, I had remained 
on board to attend to it; and consequently, from our close- 
ness to the land, had a more comprehensive view of the 
pageant than was possible to a participant. Our ships were 
nearly stripped of their crews; the rank of the admiral and 
the number of the sufferers, as well as the tragic character 
of the incident, demanding the utmost marks of reverent 
observance. As the march was taken up on shore., the 
British seamen in blue uniforms in the left column, the 
American in white in the right, to the number of several 
hundred each, presented a striking appearance; but more 
imposing and appealing, the central feature and solemn 
exponent of the occasion, was the long line of twelve 
coffins, skirting the sandy beach against a background of 
trees, borne in single file on men's shoulders in ancient 
fashion, each covered with the national colors. The tokens 
of mourning, so far as ships' ensigns were concerned, con- 
tinued till sunset, when the ceremonial procedure was 
closed by a simple form, impressive in its significance 
and appropriateness. Following the motions of the Amer- 

240 



CHINA AND JAPAN 

ican flag-ship, the chief mourner, the flags of all the ves- 
sels, as by one impulse, were rounded up to the peaks, as 
in the activities of every-day life ; that of the dead admiral 
being at the same time mast-headed to its asual place. By 
this mute gesture, vessels and crews stood at attention, 
as at a review, for their last tribute to the departed. The 
Hartford then fired a farewell rear-admiral's salute, at the 
thirteenth and final gun of which his flag came down inch 
by inch, in measured dignity, to be raised no more; all 
others descending with it in silent homage. 

Admiral Henry Bell, who thus sadly ended his career 
when on the verge of an honored retirement, was in a way 
an old acquaintance of mine. It was he who had refused 
me a transfer to the Monongahela during the war; and he 
and my father, having been comrades when cadets at the 
Mihtary Academy in the early twenties of the last cen- 
tury, had retained a certain interest in each other, shown 
by mutual inquiries through me. Bell had begun fife in the 
army, subsequently quitting it for the navy for reasons 
w^hich I do not know. He had the rigidity and precision 
of a soldier's carriage, to a degree unusual to a naval officer 
of his period. This may have been due partly to early 
training, but still more, I think, in his case, was an outcome 
and evidence of personal character; for, though kindly and 
just, he w^as essentially a martinet. He had been further 
presented to me, colloquially, by my old friend the boat- 
swain of the Congress, some of whose shrewxl comments I 
have before quoted, and who had sailed with him as a 
captain. "Oh! what a proud man he was!" he would say. 
"He would w^alk up and down the poop, looking down on 
all around, thus" — and the boatswain would compress his 
lips, throw back his shoulders, and inflate his chest; the 
w^alk he could not imitate because he had a stiff knee. 
Bell's pride, however it may have seemed, was rather pro- 
fessional than personal. He w^as thorough and exact, with 

241 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

high standards and too Uttle give. An officer entirely re- 
spectable and respected, though not brilliant. 

Upon the funeral of our wrecked seamen followed a dis- 
persion of the squadron. The Hartford and Shenandoah, 
both bound home, departed, leaving the Oneida and Iro- 
quois to "hold the fort." Conditions soon became such 
that it seemed probable we might have to carry out that 
precept somewhat literally. This was the period of the 
overthrow of the Tycoon's po^rer by the revolt of the great 
nobles, among whom the most conspicuous in leadership 
were Chiosiu and Satsuma; names then as much in our 
mouths as those of Grant, Sherman, and Lee had been 
three years before. Hostilities were active in the neigh- 
borhood of Osaka and Kobe, the Tycoon being steadily 
worsted. So far as I give any account, depending upon 
some old letters of that date, it will be understood to pre- 
sent, not sifted historical truth, but the current stories 
of the day, which to me have always seemed to possess a 
real value of their own, irrespective of their exactness. 
For example, the reports repeated by Nelson at Leghorn 
of the happenings during Bonaparte's campaign of 1796 in 
upper Italy, though often inaccurate, represent correctly 
an important element of a situation. Misapprehension, 
when it exists, is a factor in any circumstances, sometimes 
of powerful influence. It is part of the data governing the 
men of the time. 

AVhile a certain number of foreigners, availing them- 
selves of the treaty, were settling for business in Kobe, a 
large proportion had gone to Osaka, a more important com- 
mercial centre, of several hundred thousand inhabitants. 
Its superior political consideration at the moment was 
evidenced by the diplomats establishing themselves there, 
our own minister among them. The defeat of the Tycoon's 
forces in the field led to their abandoning the place, carry- 
ing off also the guards of the legations; a kind of protection 

242 



CHINA AND JAPAN 

absolutely required in those days, when the resentment 
against foreign intrusion was still very strong, especially 
among the warrior class. It was, after all, only fourteen 
years since Perry had extorted a treaty from a none too 
wiUing government. The fleeing Tycoon wished to get 
away from Osaka by a vessel belonging to him; but in the 
event of her not being off the bar — as proved to be the 
case — a party of two-sworded men, of whom he was ru- 
mored to be one, brought a letter from our minister ask- 
ing any American vessel present to give them momentary 
shelter. It is customary for refugees purely political to 
be thus received by ships of war, which afford the pro- 
tection their nation grants to such persons who reach its 
home territory; of which the ships are a privileged exten- 
sion. 

The minister's note spoke of the bearers simply as offi- 
cers of the very highest rank. About three in the morning 
they came alongside of the Iroquois, their boatmen making 
a tremendous racket, awaking everybody, the captain get- 
ting up to receive them. When I came on deck before 
breakfast the poor fellows presented a moving picture of 
human misery, and certainly were under a heavy accumu- 
lation of misfortunes: a lost battle, and probably a lost 
cause; flying for life, and now on an element totally new; 
surrounded by those who could not speak their language; 
hungry, cold, wet, and shivering — a combination of major 
and minor evils under which who would not be depressed ? 
At half-past seven they left us, after a brief stay of four 
hours ; and there was much trouble in getting so many un- 
practised landsmen into the boats, which were rolHng and 
thumping alongside in the most thoughtless manner, there 
being considerable sea. I do not remember whether the 
ladders were shipped, or whether they had to descend by 
the cleats ; but either presented difficulties to a man clad in 
the loose Japanese garb of the day, having withal two 

243 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 



swords, one very long, and a revolver. What with en- 
cumbrances and awkwardness, our seamen had to help 
them down like children. Poor old General Scott shudder- 
ing in a Key West norther, and these unhappy samurai, 
remain coupled in my mind; pendant pictures of valor in 
physical extremes, like Caesar in the Tiber. For were not 
our shaking morning visitors of the same blood, the same 
tradition, and only a generation in time removed from, the 
soldiers and seamen of the late war? whose "fitness to 
win," to use Mr. Jane's phrase, was then established. 

Between the departure of the Tycoon's forces and the 
arrival of the insurgent daimios, the native mob took pos- 
session of Osaka, becoming insolent and aggressive; inso- 
much that a party of French seamen, being stoned, turned 
and fired, kilHng several. The disposition and purposes 
of the daimios being uncertain, the diplomatic bodies 
thought best to remove to Kobe, a step which caused the 
exodus of all the new foreign population. Chiosiu and 
Satsuma, the leaders in what was still a rebellion, had not 
yet arrived, nor was there any assurance felt as to their 
attitude towards the foreign question. The narrow quar- 
ters of the Iroquois were crowTled with refugees and fugitive 
samurai ; while from our anchorage huge columns of smoke 
were seen rising from the city, which rumor, of course, mag- 
nified into a total destruction. Afterwards we were told 
that the Tycoon had burned Satsuma's palace in the place, 
in retaliation for which the enemy on entry had burned 
his. The Japanese in their haste left behind them their 
wounded, and one of the Iroquois^ officers brought off a 
story of the Italian minister, who, indignant at this de- 
sertion, went up to a Japanese official, shouting excitedly, 
"I will have you to understand it is not the custom in 
Europe thus to abandon our wounded." This he said in 
English, apparently thinking that a Japanese would be 
more likely to understand it than Italian. 

244 



CHINA AND JAPAN 

The embarkation was an affair of a short time, and the 
Iroquois then went to Kobe, where we discharged our load 
of passengers. The diplomats had decided that there, un- 
der the guns of the shipping, they would establish their 
embassies and remain; reasoning justly enough that, if 
foreigners suffered themselves to be forced out of both the 
ports conceded by treaty, there would be trouble every- 
where, in the old as well as the new. So the flags were soon 
flying gayly, and all seemed quiet; but for the maintenance 
of order there was no assurance while the interregnum last- 
ed, the Tycoon's authorities having gone, and Chiosiu or 
Satsuma still delaying. Officers on shore were therefore 
ordered to go armed. On February 4, 1868, two days 
after our return, a party of samurai, some five hundred 
strong, belonging to the Prince of Bizen, marched through 
the town by the Tokaido. As they passed the foreign con- 
cession, which bordered this high-road, they turned and 
fired upon the Europeans. The noise was heard on board 
the ships, and the commotion on shore was evident, people 
fleeing in every direction. The Japanese troops themselves 
broke and ran along the highway, abandoning luggage, 
arms, and field-pieces. The American and British ships of 
war, with a French corvette, manned and armed boats, 
landing in hot haste five or six hundred men, who pursued 
for some distance, but failed to overtake the assailants. 
At the same time the vessels sprang their batteries to bear 
on the town; a move which doubtless looked imposing 
enough, though we could scarcely have dared to fire on the 
mixed multitude, even had the trouble continued. 

When our seamen returned, a conference was held, where- 
in it was determined, as a joint international measure, to 
hold the concession in force; and as a further means of 
protection to close the Tokaido, which was done by occupy- 
ing the angles of a short elbow, of two hundred yards, made 
by it in traversing the town. This step, while justifiable 

245 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

from the point of view of safety for the residents, was par- 
ticularly galling to Japanese high-class feeling; for the use 
of the imperial road was associated with certain privileges 
to the daimios, during whose passing the common people 
were excluded, or obliged to kneel, under penalty of being 
cut down on the spot. Satsuma was reported to have re- 
monstrated; but in view of the recent occurrence there 
could be no reply to the foreign retort, " You must secure 
our people." The custom-house, within the concession, 
was garrisoned, making a fortification very tenable against 
any enemy likely to be brought against it; while round it 
was thrown up a light earth-work, to which the seamen and 
marines dispersed in the concession could retire in case of 
need. But behind all, invulnerable, stood the ships, de- 
terred from aggression only by fear for their own people, 
which would cease to operate if these had to be withdrawn. 
The action of this body of samurai was probably unpre- 
meditated, unless possibly in the mind of the particular 
officer in charge, who afterwards paid with his life for the 
misconduct of his men. While the state of siege continued 
a complete stop was put to our horseback excursions in 
the country, a deprivation the more felt because coinciding 
with an unusually fine spell of weather; but in a few days 
an envoy arrived from the insurgent daimios, with whom 
a settlement was speedily reached. Chiosiu and Satsuma 
had by this time succeeded in establishing themselves as 
the real representatives of the Mikado, an authority in 
virtue of which alone the Tycoon had ruled ; the true head- 
ship of the Mikado being admitted by all. They under- 
took that foreigners should be adequately protected, and 
that the officer responsible for the late outrage should be 
punished with death. By the 20th of February Kobe was 
full of Chiosiu and Satsuma samurai, who were as courte- 
ously civil as those of the Tycoon had been; and after a 
conference with the special envoy of the Mikado the min- 

246 



CHINA AND JAPAN 

isters returned to Osaka. We, too, resumed our country 
rides, but still weighted with a huge navy revolver. 

No doubt on any hand was felt of the sincere pur- 
pose of the new government to fulfil its pledges; but their 
troops were still ill-organized, and it was impossible to rest 
assured that they might not here and there break bounds, 
as at Kobe. We were encountering the accustomed un- 
certainties of a period of revolutionary transition, intensi- 
fied by prejudices engendered through centuries of national 
isolation, with all the narrowing and deepening of pre- 
possession which accompanies entire absence of intercourse 
with other people. At this very moment, in March, 1868, 
the decree against the practice of Christianity by the na- 
tives was reissued: "Hitherto the Christian religion has 
been forbidden, and the order must be strictly kept. The 
corrupt religion is strictly forbidden." Yet I am persuaded 
that already far-seeing Japanese had recognized that the 
past had drifted away irrevocably, and that the only ade- 
quate means to meet the inevitable was to accept it fully, 
without grudging, and to develop the nation to equality 
with foreigners in material resources. But such anticipa- 
tion is the privilege of the few in any age or any country. 

Very soon after the return of our men from their gar- 
rison duty, an outbreak of small-pox on board the Iro- 
quois compelled her being sent to Yokohama, where, as 
an old-established port, were hospital facilities not to be 
found in Kobe, though we had succeeded in removing the 
first cases to crude accommodations on shore. The disease 
was then very prevalent in Japan, where vaccination had 
not yet been introduced; and to an unaccustomed eye it 
was startling to note in the streets the number of pitted 
faces, a visible demonstration of what a European city 
must have presented before inoculation was practised. 
One of our crew had died; and when we started, February 
25th, we had on board some sick. These were carefully 

247 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

isolated under the airy topgallant forecastle, and with a 
good passage the contagion might not have spread ; but the 
second day out the weather came on bad and very thick, 
ending with a gale so violent that to save the lives of the 
patients they had to be taken below, and then, for the 
safety of the ship, which was single-decked, the hatches 
had to be battened down. Conditions more favorable for 
the spread of the malady could not have been devised, and 
the result was that we were not fairly clear of the epidemic 
for nearly two months, though the cases, of which we had 
fifteen or twenty, were sent ashore as fast as they devel- 
oped. At that period few ships on the station wholly 
escaped this scourge. 

It was after we left Kobe that judicial satisfaction was 
given for the attack upon the foreign concession. My ac- 
count depends upon the reports which reached us; but as 
the captain of the Oneida was one of the official witnesses, 
on the part of the international interests concerned, I pre- 
sume that what we heard was nearly correct. The final 
scene was in a temple near Hiogo. Being of the class of 
nobles, the condemned had a privilege of the peerage, which 
insured for him the honorable death of the harakiri;* a 
distinction apparently analogous to that which our soldiers 
of European tradition draw between hanging and shooting. 
Having duly performed acts of devotion suited to the place 
and to the occasion, he spoke, justifying his action, and say- 
ing that, under similar circumstances, he would again do 
the same. He then partly disrobed, assisted by friends, 
and when all was ready stabbed himself; a comrade who 
had stood by with drawn sword at the same instant cut- 



^ I have here used the expression " harakiri," because so commonly 
understood among English - speaking readers. A Japanese corre- 
spondent has informed me that it is never used among the Japanese, 
with the signification we have attached to it. The proper word is 
" Seppuku." 

248 



CHINA AND JAPAN 

ting off his head with a single blow. I was tempted by 
curiosity, once while on the station, to attend the execution 
of some ordinary criminals; and I can testify to the deft- 
ness and instantaneousness with which one head fell, in 
the flash of a sword or the twinkling of an eye. I did not 
care to view the fates of the three others condemned, but 
it was clear that no judicial death could be more speedy 
and merciful. 

Nearly coincident with this exacted vengeance occurred 
an incident which demonstrated its poHcy. A boat's crew 
from a French ship of war had gone ashore to survey, un- 
armed. They were accosted by a well-dressed man, wear- 
ing two swords, who suggested to them going up to a 
village near the spot where they were at work. They ac- 
cepted, and were led by him into an ambush where eleven 
of them — all but one — were slain. So there was another 
great funeral at Hiogo, but one which excited emotions far 
otherwise mournful than the simple sorrow and sympathy 
elicited by the Bell disaster. The graveyard of the place 
had, indeed, a good start. The assassins in this case be- 
longed to the troops of the insurgent daimios; and as the 
French already favored the Tycoon — which perhaps may 
have been one motive for the attack — some apprehension 
was felt that they might, in consequence, espouse his cause 
more actively. Nothing of the sort happened. I presume 
all the legations, and their nations, felt that at the moment 
the solidarity of the foreign interest was more important 
to be secured than the triumph of this or that party. By 
abstaining from intervention, all the embassies could be 
counted on to back a united demand for reparation for in- 
juries to the citizens of any one. 

With the arrival of the Iroquois at Yokohama the notable 
incidents of the cruise for the most part came to an end ; 
there following upon it the routine life of a ship of war, 
with its ups and downs of more or less pleasant ports, good 

249 



FROM SAIL TO STEA.M 

and bad weather, and the daily occupations which make 
and maintain efficiency. Yokohama itself was then the 
principal and most flourishing foreign settlement in Japan, 
the seat of the legations, and with an agreeable society 
sufficiently large. Among other features we here found 
again in force the British soldier; a battalion of eight hun- 
dred being permanently in garrison. The country about 
was thought secure, though for distant excursions, requir- 
ing a whole day, we carried revolvers; and I remember 
well the scutthng away of several pretty young women 
when one of these was accidentally discharged at a way- 
side tea-house. But while occasional rumors of danger 
would spread, it was hard to tell whence, I think notliing 
of a serious nature occurred. Nevertheless, albeit resent- 
ment and hostility were repressed in outward manifesta- 
tion by the strong hand of the government, and by the 
examples of punishment already made, they were still 
burning beneath the surface. It was during this period 
that the British minister, visiting Kioto, a concession jeal- 
ously resisted by conservative Japanese spirit, was set upon 
by some ronins while on his way to pay an official call. He 
was guarded by British cavalry and marines, and had be- 
sides an escort of samurai. It was said at the time that 
these fled, except the officers, who fought valiantly, slay- 
ing one and beating down the other of the two most des- 
perate assailants. Considering the well-established cour- 
age of the Japanese, and that the attack was by their own 
people, sympathy with the attempt seems the most likely 
explanation of the faithlessness reported. The immediate 
effect of this was to curtail our privileges of riding about 
the country of Yokohama. 

Perhaps the most notable incident, historically, of our 
stay in Yokohama was the arrival of the first iron-clad 
of the Japanese navy, to which it has fallen a genera- 
tion later to give the most forcible lesson yet seen of 

250 



CHINA AND JAPAN 

iron-clads in battle. This vessel had been the Confeder- 
ate ram Stonewall^ and prior to her acquisition by Japan 
had had a curiously checkered career of ownership. She 
was built in Bordeaux, under the name Sphinx, by con- 
tract between a French firm and the Confederate naval 
agent in Europe; but some difficulty arose between the 
parties, and in 1864 Denmark, being then at war with 
Austria and Prussia concerning the Schleswig - Holstein 
duchies, bought her under certain conditions. With a 
view to delivery to the Danish government she was taken 
to a Swedish port, and after a nominal sale proceeded 
under the Swedish flag to Copenhagen, where she remained 
in charge of a banker of that city. Peace having been 
meanwhile declared, Denmark no longer wanted her. The 
sale was nullified under pretext of failure in the conditions, 
and she passed finally into the hands of the Confederacy,* 
sailing from Copenhagen January 7, 1865. Off Quiberon, 
in France, she received a crew from another vessel under 
Confederate direction, and thence attempted to go to the 
Azores, but was forced by bad weather into Ferrol. From 
there she crossed the Atlantic ; but by the time of her ar- 
rival the War of Secession was ended by the surrenders of 
Lee and Johnston. Her commander took her to Havana, 
and there gave her up to the Spanish authorities. Spain, 
in turn, in due time delivered her to the United States, as 
the legal heir to all spoils of the Confederacy. Several years 
later, in 1871, I had a share in bringing home part of these 
often useless trophies; the ship in which I was having gone 
to Europe, without guns, loaded with provisions to supply 
the needs of the French poor, presumed to be suffering from 
the then recent war with Germany. Our cargo discharged, 
we were sent to Liverpool, and there took on board some 
rifled cannon and projectiles originally made for the South. 

^Official Record of the Union and Confederate Navies, Series I., voL 
ill., p. 722. 

251 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

The Stonewall had been lying at the Washington Navy- 
Yard when I was stationed there in 1866. Measured by 
to-day's standards she was of trivial power, small in size, 
moderate in speed, light in armor and armament; but her 
ram was of formidable dimensions, and at that period the 
tactical value of the ram was estimated much more highly 
than it now is. The disastrous effect of the thrust, if suc- 
cessfully made, outweighed in men's minds the difficulty 
of hitting; an error of valuation similar to that which has 
continuously exaggerated the danger from torpedo craft 
of all kinds. After the sailing of the Iroquois, a deputa- 
tion of Japanese officials came to the United States on a 
mission, part of which was to buy ships of war. In re- 
ply to their inquiries, Commander — now Rear-Admiral — 
George Brown, then ordnance officer of the yard, pointed 
out the Stonewall to them as a vessel suitable for their im- 
mediate purposes, and with which our government might 
probably part. He also expressed a favorable opinion of 
her sea-going qualities for reaching Japan. A few days 
later they came to him and said that, as he thought well 
of her, perhaps he would undertake to carry her out; their 
own seamanship at that early date being unequal to the 
responsibility. This was more than was anticipated by 
Brown, interested in his present duties, but it rather put 
him on his mettle ; and so he set forth, a satisfactory pe- 
cuniary arrangement having been concluded. She went 
by way of the Strait of Magellan and the Hawaiian Islands, 
reaching Yokohama without other incident than constant 
ducking. As one of her officers said, clothes needed not 
to be scrubbed; a soiled garment could be simply secured on 
the forward deck, and left there to wash in the water that 
came on board until it was clean. I have never known her 
subsequent fortunes in Japanese hands; but as the begin- 
ning of their armored navy she has a place in history — and 
here. 

252 



CHINA AND JAPAN 

From Yokohama the Iroquois returned to Kobe, and 
there lay during July, August, and September; so that in 
our two visits I passed five months in this part of the 
Inland Sea. The summer, in its way, is there as pleasant 
as the winter in its. The highest thermometer I read was 
87° Fahrenheit, and there was almost always a pleasant 
breeze. The country was now so far safe that we went 
everywhere within reasonable reach of the concession, and 
the scenery presented such variety in sameness as to be a 
perpetual source of enjoyment. The most striking char- 
acteristics are the views of the enclosed sea itself, ample in 
expanse, yet without the monotony attendant upon an 
unbounded water view; and, when that disappears, fol- 
lows the succession of enclosed valleys, alike, yet different; 
a recurrent feature similar, though on another scale, to 
that presented by the valley of the Inn on the ride from 
Zurich to Innsbruck. How far away those days are is 
seen from my noting on one of them, while visiting what 
was known to us as the Moon Temple, that the ships of 
war below were dressed in honor of the first Napoleon's 
birthday, August 15th; an observance which ceased with 
the empire. 

This time I managed an opportunity of seeing Osaka, 
which the disturbed conditions had prevented my doing 
during our winter stay. Description I shall avoid, as al- 
ways; enough to say that the flatness of the site, in low 
land, six miles from the mouth of the narrow, winding 
river, makes the city one of canals, like Venice and Amster- 
dam. In visiting the great castle of the Tycoon, a stone 
fortification notable not only for its own size, but for the 
dimensions of the huge single stones of which it is built, 
we went by boat, following a sluggish watercourse, an 
eighth of a mile wide, and so shallow that we poled through 
it. The pull from the bar to the city was very tedious, 
and Kobe evidently had proved the better commercial 

17 253 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

situation; for even now, half a year after the opening of 
the port; we were looked upon with curiosity; were fol- 
lowed by crowds which stopped if we stopped, moved 
when we moved. To the children we were objects of ap- 
prehension; they eyed us fearfully, and scuttled away 
rapidly if we made any feint at rushing towards them. 
Nevertheless, the prevailing tone among the common peo- 
ple was now plainly kindly, although six months before 
they would at times spit at foreigners from the bridges 
which in great numbers span the streams. The temper of 
those who form mobs changes lightly. It is true that in 
our excursions we were accompanied by an armed guard, 
which would seem to indicate possibilities of clanger; but 
these samurai themselves were not only courteous, but in- 
terested and smiling, and I thought gave good promise 
that their class in general was coming round to friendli- 
ness. 

We left Kobe towards the end of September, in company 
with a new flag-ship which had arrived to take the place of 
the Hartford. This vessel rejoiced to call herself Pis- 
cataqua, which is worth recording as a sample of a class 
of name then much affected by the powers that were, pre- 
sumably on account of their length; "fine flourishers," to 
quote the always illustrative Boatswain Chucks, "as long 
as their homeward-bound pendants, which in a calm drop 
in the water alongside." Piscataqua, however uncouth, 
most Americans can place; but what shall we say of Am- 
monoosuc, Wampanoag, and such like, then adorning our 
lists, which seem as though extracted by a fine-tooth comb 
drawn through the tangle of Indian nomenclature. Under 
the succeeding administration Piscataqua was changed to 
Delaware. The new commander-in-chief was among our 
most popular officers, distinguished alike for seamanship, 
courage, and courtesy; but he held to great secrecy as to 
his intentions, which caused officers more inconvenience 

254 



CHINA AND JAPAN 

than seemed always quite necessary. Questions of mess- 
stores, of correspondence, and other pre-arrangements, de- 
pend much upon knowledge of future movements, as exact 
as may not interfere with service emergencies. These in 
peace times rarely require concealment. A characteristic 
story ran that, as the two vessels were leaving Kobe, when 
the flag-ship's anchor was a-weigh, her captain, still igno- 
rant of her destination, turned to the admiral and said, 
"Which way shall I lay her head, sir?'' 

It turned out that we were bound to Nagasaki, on our 
way to China. The approaching northeast monsoon, with 
its dry, bracing air, dictates the period when foreign squad- 
rons usually go south, having during the summer in Japan 
avoided the debilitating damp heat which those months 
entail in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and the Chinese ports 
generally. The Iroquois, however, had soon to separate 
from the flag-ship, owing to news received of a singular 
occurrence, savoring more of two hundred years ago, or of 
to-day's dime novel — "shilling shocker," as our British 
brethren have it — than of the prosaic nineteenth century. 
There had arrived at Hakodate, the northernmost of the 
then open Japanese ports, on the island of Yezo and Strait 
of Tsugaru, a mysterious bark, without name or papers, 
peopled only by Chinese of the coolie class, and bearing 
evident marks of foul play. From indications she was sup- 
posed to be American, and our ship, being the most im- 
mediately available, was ordered up to investigate ; leaving 
Nagasaki October 24, 1868. Our course took us over the 
ground which has since become historic by the destruction 
of Rodjestvensky's fleet, as well as by other incidents of 
the Russo-Japanese war; and the w^eather we had, both 
going and returning, would justify the anxiety said to 
have been felt by the Japanese naval authorities, that Port 
Arthur should be taken before the winter set in. Like 
men, ships must do their work at whatever cost; but like 

255 



FROM SAIL TO STEMI 

men also^ and perhaps even more, they should be spared 
needless strain, especially if they be few. A sick ship needs 
usually more time for recovery than a sick man. 

Our orders directed a stop at a port called Niigata, on 
the west coast of Nippon. We must have communicated, 
for I thence despatched a letter; but at the time of our ar- 
rival a furious northwest gale was blowing, dead on shore. 
The ship, therefore, ran under a largish island called Sado, 
which much to our convenience lies a few miles to sea- 
ward of Niigata, and there anchored; quietly enough as 
to wind, though gusty willy-waws descending from the 
cliffs and swishing the water in petty whirlwinds testi- 
fied to the commotion outside. We had quite the same 
experience returning to Shanghai; but at that time in mid- 
sea, where the Iroquois, powerless as to steam, but other- 
wise as much at home as the sea-fowl, rode it out gleefully, 
though I admit not luxuriously to flesh and muscles. 

On November 1st we reached Hakodate, where our cap- 
tain and consul, aided by the Japanese authorities, pro- 
ceeded at once with their investigation. The strange ves- 
sel was in as distressed condition, almost, as that of the 
Ancient Mariner when he drew near "his own countree:'' 
sails gone, rigging flying loose, one of her topgallant masts, 
if I remember right, snapped in two, and the exterior of 
her hull as though neither paint nor soap had known it for 
years. In her cabins were marks of blood not eradicated ; 
and particularly on the transom over the stern windows was 
the print of a bloody hand, the fingers spread wide as they 
rested against the paint, suggesting resistance by one being 
thrust out. The story so far collected from the coolies 
was that they had sailed in her from Macao, a Portuguese 
port near Canton and Hong Kong, and that the captain 
and crew, after taking her far north in the ice, had aban- 
doned her altogether. In support of this part of their 
story they showed furs procured from the natives. These 

256 



CHINA AND JAPAN 

gave plausibility to the ice experiences; but the rest of 
the account, unhkcly in itself, had been disproved by in- 
quiry in Macao, where nothing was known of any vessel 
answering to the descriptions. At last, however, a rumor 
had come, how conveyed I know not, that such a bark, 
with coolies and twelve thousand dollars in gold on board, 
had sailed from Callao, in Peru, the previous January, and 
had never since been heard from; that she had a Peruvian 
captain and crew, but carried American colors, probably 
merely as indicating American property. To claim full 
American privilege, ships must be American built; but one 
bought abroad and owned by Americans may carry the 
flag, in proof of nationality, though without the right of 
entering an American port like those to the manner born. 
They thus become entitled to the same national regard as 
any other possessions of American citizens under foreign 
jurisdiction. 

So information stood when the Iroquois arrived — false 
on one hand, and on the other vague. Soon after the cap- 
tain and consul began their investigation they stumbled 
upon the vessel's papers, concealed in a manner which had 
hitherto baffled careful search. These showed that she was 
the missing Cayalti, which on the previous January 18th 
had cleared from Callao for another Peruvian port; that 
she was American in ownership, while the captain and crew 
were Spanish in name. This fixed her identity; but how 
account for the disappearance of the ship's company, and 
for her presence in Hakodate, on the other side of the Pa- 
cific, three thousand miles north of Callao. To this inquiry 
the captain and consul addressed themselves in the cabin 
of the Iroquois. Two or three Japanese two-sworded offi- 
cials were in attendance, and memory recalls their grave, 
impassive faces, as seen at times when some routine com- 
munication called me in to speak to our captain. 

Contracted though the captain's quarters were, the un- 

257 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 



accustomed scene, absent from their companions and from 
the famiUar surroundings of their probable crime, was cal- 
culated to impress the culprits; and the methods pursued 
to instigate admissions savored, I fancy, more of the Ori- 
ent than of modern Anglo-Saxon ideals. But the present 
functions of our officials corresponded to those of the 
French juges dHnstruction; and, having to elicit the truth 
from a low class of Orientals, they dealt with them after 
the fashion which alone they would recognize as serious. 
The witnesses began, of course, by lying in the most trans- 
parent manner, but under judicious — or judicial — pressure 
a story was pieced together which in main outhne probably 
corresponded with the truth ; for in it three or four of them 
independently agreed. Two days out from Callao the 
coolies had risen against the whites, and after a short fight 
overpowered them. Of the crew, two jumped overboard; 
the rest submitted. A boat was then lowered, and the 
men in the water were killed; after which the others were 
tied together, made fast to an anchor, and so thrown into 
the sea, the mate, who had fought desperately, having first 
been mutilated by cutting off his ears. The captain and 
a Chinese steward were saved; the former to handle the 
ship, to which the coolies were unequal, and he was bidden 
to take her to China. I do not find in my contemporary 
letters the impression which remains on my mind, that 
they estimated his general observance of this order by the 
vague knowledge that China lay towards the evening sim. 
The history of that strange voyage would be interesting, but 
was scarcely recoverable in detail from the class of wit- 
nesses. It would be by no means certain that the master 
of a coastwise trader could navigate accurately; and, while 
he would always be sure of death if he brought the vessel 
within reach of China, it is not apparent why he should 
take her to the remote north in which the furs showed her 
to have been. I have never heard whether, as the evi- 

258 



CHINA AND JAPAN 

dencc ran, he and the steward escaped ahve, abandon- 
ing the ship/ He had disappeared when the Japanese 
found her drifting helplessly under her ignorant occu- 
pants. 

While in Hakodate, I availed myself of the opportunity 
to visit a great lake and a volcano, not extinct, but not 
immediately active. They are distant about fifteen miles 
from the town, a position in which I see such a sheet of 
water on the maps of to-day. This was a long ride in the 
then state of the roads, after the autumn rains, and with 
nightly freeze sufficient continually to fix the moisture, 
and then to renew the dampness towards the noon-day 
thaw. Transport was not by wheel, but by pack-animals; 
and as these marched in companies of a half-dozen or so, 
in single file, haltered one to the other, each as he stepped 
put his foot into the prints made, not merely by his im- 
mediate file-leader of the particular gang, but by all others 
going and coming for weeks before. The consequence was 
a succession of scallops, distributed over long stretches of 
mud, the consistency of which just sufficed to hold the 
shape thus impressed upon it. Japanese horses are small, 
and as a class quarrelsome ; the one I rode on this occasion 
was little larger than a child's pony, and looked as if he 
had not been curried for a month. I hesitated to impose 
upon him my weight, a scruple which would have been 
intensified had I known the character of the pilgrimage 
through which he was to bear me. With his feet at the 
bottom of the scallop, the rounded top rose above his 
knee, nearly giving his patient nose the touch which his 
dejected mood and drooping head seemed to invite. At 

^ Since this was written, I have been told by one of the officers of 
the Iroquois, Lieutenant — now Rear-Admiral — NicoU Ludlow, that 
many years afterwards he saw the story of the Cayalti's captain, told 
by himself, in the Overland Monthly, of San Francisco. He had been 
allowed to go ashore to get provisions, and of course did not return. 

259 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

the first start he stumbled, nearly falling on me, but es- 
caped with nostrils and mouth full of liquid dirt. 

A day to go, a day to come, and one intervening to cross 
the lake and ascend the volcano, measured our excursion; 
through the whole of which we had sunny sides and ex- 
hilarating temperature till the last hour of our return, when 
a drizzling rain suggested what might have been our dis- 
comfort had the heavens above been as impropitious as 
the roads beneath. Even the crossing of the lake and the 
ascent were particularly favored, the sky literally cloudless 
and water smooth; whereas the following morning, when 
we rose to depart, a fog had settled on the mountain, mak- 
ing movement upon it doubtful and even to a slight degree 
dangerous. The lake, some six miles by ten, and abound- 
ing in islets, lay smiling under the bright, wintry sun, its 
shores clad with leafless forests mingled with evergreens, 
save the barren slopes of the volcano itself; beneath the 
distant lava stream of which we were told seventeen hun- 
dred people lay, buried by the last eruption. The scene 
tempted me more than most to description, for the brill- 
iant stillness of a clear November day, and the gaunt, bare 
trees, were strange to our long experience of verdure in 
southern Japan, and smacked strongly of home — Hako- 
date being in the latitude of New York; but, as always, 
the majority have their own vision, their own memory, of 
just such conditions and surroundings, more vivid for them 
than another's portrayal. 

The two nights at the lake we slept in a Japanese tea- 
house, scrupulously clean and quite comfortable, but at 
that early date and remote region entirely primitive; I 
should rather say strictly native in all its arrangements. 
The kitchen was innocent of European suggestion; we ate 
with chopsticks, and fish from the lake were spitted and 
cooked around a fire in a sandy hearth, contrived below 
the middle of the room. Eggs were in abundance, but 

260 



CHINA AND JAPAN 

coffee was sorely missed at our chilly rising. At 9 a.m. 
we started for the volcano, getting back at 7 p.m. We 
landed at the foot of the lava stream and ascended by it 
through a picture of desolation. From shore to summit 
took us three hours, which confirmed to me a rough esti- 
mate of the height as about four thousand feet. The grade 
was not severe, some thirty or forty degrees; but by this 
time we had a brisk northwest wind blowing down our 
throats, and the latter part of the way our feet sank deep 
in volcanic dust. At the top the air was very cold, keen, 
and rare, but somewhat oppressive to the lungs. None of 
us cared to smoke, after eating and drinking, but the view 
afforded us was perfect; limitless, so far as atmospheric 
conditions went. In appearance the crater differed little, I 
presume, from others in a state of quiescence. Smoke and 
steam poured forth continually, in one spot in large vol- 
umes; while from many places issued little jets, such as 
puff from the out-door pipes of a factory, suggesting subter- 
ranean workmen. These were especially numerous from a 
large mound in the centre, which our guide told us was 
growing bigger and bigger with his successive visits, por- 
tending an outburst near. If his observation was accu- 
rate, it goes to show the coincident sympathetic move- 
ments which occur in volcanic regions remote from one 
another; for this year, 1868, followed one of great terres- 
trial disturbance. In 1867 two of our naval vessels had 
been carried ashore by a tidal wave in the West Indies; 
and of two others lying off Arica, Peru, one was dashed to 
pieces against the chffs, while the other was carried over 
low, flat ground for a mile or so inland, where her disman- 
tled hull was still lying when I was there in 1884. 

Our starting when we did, as soon as possible, three days 
after arrival, justified the Nelsonian maxim not to trifle 
with a fair wind; for we just culled the three days which 
were the cream, and only cream, of our stay. From our 

261 



FROM SAIL TO STEA:\I 

return on the 6th, to sailing on the 12th, there was but one 
fair twenty-four hours — the rest from blustering to furious; 
and w^e went out with the promise of a gale which did not 
with evening "in the west sink smilingly forsworn." The 
Iroquois ran through Tsugaru Strait under canvas, with a 
barometer rather tumbhng than faUing, and an east wind 
fast freshening to heavy. We knew it must end at north- 
west; but it lasted till afternoon of the next day, so we got 
a good offing. The shift of the wind w^as in its accompa- 
niments spectacular — and cyclonic. The morning of the 
13th was among the wildest I have seen. Daylight came 
a half-hoiu- late, with a lurid sky; the clouds, the con- 
fused, heaving water, the sails, spars, and deck of the ship 
herself, all as if seen in a Lorraine glass. It having become 
nearly calm, she lay thrashing aimlessly in the swell, un- 
steadied by the canvas. The barometer still fell slowly 
till two in the afternoon, when it stopped, and we began 
to look out. 

" First rise after very low 
Indicates a stronger blow." 

At three it rose one one-hundredth of an inch, and almost 
simultaneously, looking over the weather rail, was to be 
seen the oncoming northwester, never long in debt to a 
southeaster. First a gleaming white line of foam beneath 
the sombre horizon, gradually spreading to right and left, 
and visibly widening as it drew near. Soon its deepen- 
ing surface broke to view into innumerable separate wave- 
crests, which advanced leaping in tumultuous accord, like 
the bounding rush of a pack of wolves, whom you may see, 
and whose howling you can imagine but do not yet hear. 
As Kingsley has said, '' It looks so dangerous, and you are 
so safe" — all the thrill, yet none of the apprehension. The 
new gale struck the Iroquois in full force. Within twenty 
minutes it had reached its height, and so continued for 

262 



CHINA AND JAPAN 

near forty -eight hours, during thirty -six of which the 
hatches were battened down. For a time the two seas, 
the old and the new, fought each other to our discomfort; 
but the old yielded, and, as the new got its even, regular 
swing, the Iroquois agreed with its enemy of the moment 
and rode easily. 

With our arrival at Shanghai we had left behind what- 
ever in the cruise of the Iroquois could be considered ex- 
ceptional as to incident; that is, while I remained with her. 
From December, 1868, we entered in China upon the usu- 
al routine of station movement; interesting enough at the 
time, but from which my memory retains nothing note- 
worthy. Subsequently we visited Formosa and Manila and 
Hong Kong; whence we were sent south for ten days to 
the Gulf of Hainan to search for a French corvette which 
had disappeared. We did not find her, nor was she again 
seen by mortal eyes. Returning to Hong Kong, we learned 
of the first election of General Grant to the presidency, and 
that a letter from him had reached the admiral asking that 
the captain of the flag-ship, who as a school comrade had 
once saved Grant's life, should be ordered home ; the inten- 
tion being to give him charge of an important bureau in 
the Navy Department. Under usual circumstances a re- 
lief would have been sent out; but as the request was 
from the expectant administration, not from the one still 
in power and antagonistic, a private letter was the chosen 
medium of action. 

His departure made a vacancy, to which succeeded the 
captain of the Iroquois, a great favorite with the command- 
er-in-chief. I was left in charge of the ship until we went 
back to Japan in May. There I fell ill at Nagasaki, and 
after recovery found myself at Yokohama, in command of 
a gunboat ordered to be sold. This consummation was 
reached in September, and I then started for home, having 
the admiral's permission to proceed by Suez to Europe, 

263 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

instead of by the usual route to San Francisco. My object 
was only to visit Europe; but on the way to Hong Kong 
a Parsee merchant, a fellow-passenger, suggested turning 
aside to India, which I had not contemplated. I shall not 
go into my brief India travel from Calcutta to Bombay, 
beyond mentioning the singular good-fortune, as it ap- 
peared to me, that I visited the ruined residence at Luck- 
now, and the remains of the memorable siege of twelve 
years before, in the company of an officer who had him- 
self been a participant. His wife, still a very young and 
handsome woman, whom I had the pleasure of meeting, 
had been one of the children within the works, sharing the 
perils, if not the anxieties, of their mothers during that 
period of awful suspense. 

Nor do I think my six months in Europe, leave for which 
met me on my arrival there, worthy of particular note, 
save in one incident which has always seemed to me curi- 
ous. Landing at Marseilles, I found that intimate friends 
were then at Nice. I accordingly went there, instead of 
to Paris, as I had intended; and, like thoughtless young 
men everywhere, abandoned myself to pleasant society 
instead of to self-improvement by travel. My purpose, 
however, continually was to go directly to Paris when I 
did leave Nice, for my time was limited; but a middle- 
aged friend strongly dissuaded me. "You should by no 
means fail to visit Rome now," he said, "for, indepen- 
dently of the immortal interest of the place, of the treas- 
ures of association and of art which are its imperishable 
birthright, there is the more transient spectacle of the 
Papacy, in the pride, pomp, and circumstance of the tem- 
poral power. This may at any moment pass away, and you 
therefore may never have another opportunity to witness 
it in its glory. There is a vague traditional prophecy that, 
as St. Peter held the bishopric of Rome twenty-five years, 
any pope whose tenure exceeds his will see the downfall 

264 



CHINA AND JAPAN 

of the papal sovereignty over Rome. Such prophecies 
often insure their own fulfilment, and Pius IX. is now 
closely approaching his twenty-fifth year. Go while you 
can." So I went, in February, 1870; and before the next 
winter's snow the temporal power was a thing of the past. 



XI 

THE TURNING OF A LONG LANE— HISTORICAL, NAVAL, 

AND PERSONAL 

1870 

In narrating the cruise of the Iroquois I have, as it were, 
laid the reins on the neck of my memory, letting it freely 
run away; partly because our track lay over stretches of 
sea even now somewhat unbeaten by travel, partly be- 
cause the story of routine naval life and incidental experi- 
ences, in a time already far past, might have for the non- 
professional reader more novelty than could be premised 
by me, a daily participant therein. Moreover, there were 
in our cruise some exceptional occurrences which might be 
counted upon to relieve monotony. I purpose to observe 
greater restraint in what follows. 

The year 1870, in which I returned home, was one of 
marked and decisive influence upon history, and in a way 
a turning-point in my own obscure career. As in February 
I witnessed the splendors of the papal city under its old 
regime, so in April and May I saw imperial Paris brilliant 
under the emperor. In the one case as in the other I was 
unconscious of the approaching debacle; a blindness I pre- 
sume shared by most contemporaries. ^Tiatever the wiser 
and more far-seeing might have prophesied as to the gen- 
eral ultimate issues, few or none could then have foretold 
the particular occasion which so soon afterwards opened 
the floodgates. As the old passed, with the downfall of the 
French Empire and of the temporal kingdom, there arose 

266 



THE TURNING OF A LONG LANE 

a new; not merely the German Empire and the unity of 
Italy, crowned by the possession of its historic capital, but, 
unrecognized for the moment, then came in that reign of 
organized and disciplined force, the full effect and func- 
tion of which in the future men still only dimly discern. 
The successive rapid overthrows of the Austrian and 
French empires by military efficiency and skill; the beat- 
ing in detail two separate foes who, united, might have 
been too strong for the victor; the consequent crumbling 
of the papal monarchy when French support was with- 
drawn, following closely on the Vatican Decree of Infalli- 
bihty; these things produced an impression which was 
transmitted rapidly throughout the world of European 
civilization, till in the Farther East it reached Japan. Into 
the current thus established the petty stream of my own 
fortunes was drawn, httle anticipated by myself. To it 
was due my special call; for by it was created the predis- 
position to recognize the momentous bearing of maritime 
force upon the course of history, which insured me a hear- 
ing when the fulness of my time was come. 

Until 1870 my life since graduation had been passed 
afloat almost without interruption. Soon afterwards I 
obtained command rank; and this promotion, combined 
with the dead apathy which after the War of Secession 
settled upon our people with regard to the navy, left me 
with relatively little active employment for several years. 
In America, the naval stagnation of that period was some- 
thing now almost incredible. The echoes of the guns which 
from Koniggratz and a dozen battle-fields in France had 
resounded round the globe, awakening the statesmen of 
all countries, had apparently ricochetted over the United 
States, as fog sound-signals are noticed to rebound over- 
head, unheard through long stretches of the sea -level, 
until they again touch the water beyond. The nation 
slumbered peacefully in its ^^ "petit coin,'' to use the ex- 

267 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

pressive phrase of a French admiral to me. Had even 
nothing been done, this inertness might have been less 
significant; but somewhere in the early seventies, despite 
all the progress elsewhere noticeable, there were built de- 
liberately some half-dozen corvettes, smaller than the Iro~ 
quois class, mostly of wood. That a period of lethargy in 
action should steal over a government just released from 
strenuous exertion is one thing, and bad enough; but it is 
different, and much worse, that there should be a paralysis 
of idea, of mental development corresponding to the move- 
ment of the world. 

• I myself have always considered that the "right about" 
of policy came with the administration of President Arthur, 
when I\Ir. Chandler was Secretary of the Navy. It began 
with a work of destruction, an exposure of the uselessness 
of the existing naval material, due purely to stand-still; 
to being left hopelessly in the rear by the march of im- 
provement el where. Upon this followed under the same 
administration an attempt at restoration, gingerly enough 
in its conceptions. The vessels laid down were cruisers, 
the primary quality of w^hich should be speed; but fourteen 
knots was the highest demanded, and that of one only, 
the Chicago. Unhappily, wherever the fault lay, the navy 
then had the habit of living from day to day on expedi- 
ents, on makeshifts. Although deficiencies were manifest 
and generally felt, the prevailing sentiment had been that 
we should wait until the experiments of other peoples, 
in the cost of which we would not share, should have 
reached workable finalities. This is another instance 
of what is commonly called '^ practical;" as though mental 
processes must not necessarily antecede efficient action, 
and as though there was not then at hand abundant 
data for brains to work on, without any expenditure of 
money. Finality, indeed, had not been reached, and never 
will be in anything save death; but at that time it had 

268 



THE TURNING OF A LONG LANE 

been shown beyond peradventure that radically new con- 
ditions had entered naval warfare, and clearly the first 
most practical step was a matiu"e official digestion of these 
conditions — a decision as to what types of vessels were 
needed, and what their respective qualities should be. In 
short, the first and perfectly possible thing was to evolve 
a systematic pohcy; a careful look, and then a big leap. 

However, things rarely come about in that way. It in- 
volves getting rid of old ideas, which is quite as bad as 
pulling teeth, and much harder; and the subsequent adop- 
tion of new ones, that are as uneasy as tight shoes. We 
had then certain accepted maxims, dating mainly from 
1812, which were as thoroughly current in the country — 
and I fear in the navy, too — as the "dollar of the daddies" 
was not long after. One was that commerce destroying 
was the great efficient weapon of naval warfare. Every- 
body — the navy as well — believed we had beaten Great 
Britain in 1812, brought her to her knees, by the destruc- 
tion of her commerce through the system observed by us 
of single cruisers; naval or privateers. From that errone- 
ous premise was deduced the conclusion of a navy of 
cruisers, and small cruisers at that; no battle -ship nor 
fleets.^ Then we wanted a navy for coast defence only, no 
aggressive action in our pious souls; an amusing instance 
being that our first battle-ships w^ere styled " coast defence " 
battle-ships, a nomenclature w^hich probably facilitated the 
appropriations. They were that; but they were capable 
of better things, as the event has proved. But the very 

^ This is not the place for a discussion of commerce-destroying as a 
method of war; but having myself given, as I believe, historical demon- 
stration that as a sole or principal resource, maintained by scattered 
cruisers only, it is insufficient, I wish to warn public opinion against 
the reaction, the return swing of the pendulum, seen by me with dis- 
may, which would make it of no use at all, and under the plea of im- 
munity to ''private propert3^" so called, would exempt from attack 
the maritime commerce of belligerents. 
'« 269 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 



fact that such talk passed unchallenged as that about com- 
merce-destroying by scattered cruisers, and war by mere de- 
fence — known to all military students as utterly futile and 
ruinous — shows the need then existent of a comiprehensive 
survey of the contemporary condition of the world, and of 
the stage which naval material had reached. One such 
was made, which a subsequent secretary, Mr. Tracy, char- 
acterized to me as excellent; but the deficiencies and re- 
quirements exposed by it in our naval status frightened 
Congress, much as the confronting of his affairs terrify a 
bankrupt. 

During the latter part of Secretary Chandler's term I 
was abroad in command of the Wachusett, on the Pacific 
coast. Besides her, the squadron consisted of the Hart- 
ford, Farragut's old flag-ship, the Lackawanna, and my 
former ship, the Iroquois. They all dated, guns as well, 
from the War of Secession, or earlier. Had they been ex- 
ceptional instances, on a station of no great importance, it 
might not have mattered greatly; but in fact they still re- 
mained representative components of the United States 
navy. The squadron organization, too, was that which 
had prevailed ever since I entered the service, and so con- 
tinued until a very few years ago. The rule was that the 
vessels were scattered, one to this port, another to that. 
They rarely met, except for interchange of duties; and 
when in company almost the only exercises in common were 
those of yards and sails, in which the ships worked com- 
petitively, to beat one another's time, — a healthy enough 
emulation. But this rivalry was no substitute for the 
much more necessary practice of working together, in mu- 
tual support; for the acquired habit of handling vessels 
in rapid movement and close proximity with fearless judg- 
ment, based upon experience of what your own could do, 
and what might be confidently expected from your con- 
sorts, especially your next ahead and astern. A new cap- 

270 



THE TURNING OF A LONG LANE 

tain for the Lackawanna accompanied me to the station, 
where we found our ships in Callao, assembled with the 
other two. Within a week later we all went out together, 
performed three or four simple evolutions, and then scat- 
tered. This was the only fleet drill we had in the two 
years, 1883-1885. 

In fact, from time immemorial the navy had thought 
in single ships, as the army had in compan}^ posts. To the 
several officers their own ship was everything, the squadron 
little or nothing. The War of Secession had broadened the 
ideas of the army by enlarging its operations in the field, 
although peace brought a relapse; but the navy having to 
fight only shore batteries, not fleets, was not forced out of 
the old tactical and strategic apathy. The huge accumu- 
lations of vessels under a single admiral entailed enlarged 
administrative duties; but the tactical methods, as shown 
in the greater battles, presented simply the adaptation of 
means to a particular occasion, and, however sagacious in 
the several instances — and they usually were sagacious — 
possessed no continuity of system in either theory or prac- 
tice. Organic unity did not exist except for administra- 
tion. There was an assemblage of vessels, but not a fleet. 
All this was the result, or at least the complement, of the 
theory of commerce destroying, which prescribed cruisers 
that act singly; and of war by defence only, which pro- 
scribed battle-ships, that act in unison and so compel unity. 

A further incident of Mr. Chandler's tenure of office was 
the establishment of the Naval War College at Newport. 
This had its origin in the recognition of a defect in the 
constitution of the Navy Department, which was glaringly 
visible during the War of Secession. Immense and admi- 
rable as was the administrative work done by the Depart- 
ment during that contest, there did not exist in it then, 
nor did there for many years to come, any formal provi- 
sion for the proper consideration and expert decision of 

271 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

strictly military questions, from the point of view of mili- 
tary experience and professional understanding. The head 
of the Department, invariably • a civilian under our form of 
government, and therefore usually unfamiliar with naval 
matters, had not assured to him, at instant call, organized 
professional assistance, individual or corporate, prepared 
to advise him, when asked, as to the military aspect of pro- 
posed operations, what the arguments for or against feasi- 
bility, or what the best method of procedure. In other 
services, notably in the German army, this function is dis- 
charged by the general staff, nothing correspondent to 
which was to be found in our Navy Department. It is 
evident that the constitution of a general staff, or of any 
similar body called into being for such purpose, will be 
more broadly based, and sounder, as knowledge of the sub- 
jects in question is more widely distributed among the offi- 
cers of the service; and that such knowledge will be im- 
parted most certainly by the creation of an institution for 
the systematic study of military operations, by land or 
sea, applying the experiences of histor}^ to contemporary 
conditions, and to the particular theatres of possible war 
in which the nation may be interested. 

Such studies are the object of the Naval War College, 
which was established upon the report of a board of offi- 
cers, at the head of which was the present Rear-Admiral 
Stephen B. Luce, to whose persistent initiative must be 
attributed much of the movement which thus resulted. 
The other merfibers of the board were the late Admiral 
Sampson, and Commander — now Rear-Admiral — Caspar F. 
Goodrich. Luce became the first president of the institu- 
tion, for which the Department assigned a building, once 
an almshouse, situated on Coaster's Harbor Island, in Nar- 
ragansett Bay, then recently ceded to the United States 
government. It remained still to get together a staff of 
instructors, and he wrote me to ask if I would undertake 

272 



THE TURNING OF A LONG LANE 

the subjects of naval history and naval tactics. The prop- 
osition was to me very acceptable; for I had found the 
Pacific station disagreeable, and, although without proper 
preparation, I believed on reflection that I could do the 
work. During my last tour of shore duty I had read care- 
fully Napier's Peninsular War, and had found myself in a 
new world of thought; keenly interested and appreciative, 
less of the brilliant narrative — though that few can fail 
to enjoy — than of the military sequences of cause and 
effect. The influence of Sir John Moore's famous march to 
Sahagun — less famous than it deserves to be — upon Na- 
poleon's campaign in Spain, revealed to me by Napier like 
the sun breaking through a cloud, aroused an emotion as 
joyful as the luminary himself to a navigator doubtful of 
his position. 

"Then felt I as some watcher of the skies 
When a new planet swims into his ken; 
Or Hke stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes 
He stared at the Pacific." 

Following this I had written by request a volume on the 
Navy in the War of Secession, entitled The Gulf and Inland 
Waters; my first appearance as an author. Herein also I 
had recognized that the same class of military ideas took 
possession of my mind. I felt, therefore, that I should 
bring interest and understanding to my task, and hoped 
that the defects of knowledge, which I clearly realized, 
would be overcome. I recalled also that at the Military 
Academy my father, though professor only of engineering, 
military and civil, had of his own motion introduced 
a course of strategy and grand tactics, which had com- 
mended itself to observers. I trusted, therefore, that 
heredity, too, might come to my aid. 

As acceptance placed me on the road which led direct- 
ly to all the success I have had in Ufe, I feel impelled to 

273 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

acknowledge my indebtedness to Admiral Luce. With 
little constitutional initiative, and having grown up in the 
atmosphere of the single cruiser, of commerce-destroying, 
defensive warfare, and indifference to battle -ships; an 
an ti - imperialist, who for that reason looked upon Mr. 
Blaine as a dangerous man; at forty-five I was drifting 
on the lines of simple respectability as aimlessly as one 
very well could. My environment had been too much for 
me ; my present call changed it. Meantime, however, there 
was delay. A reUef would not be sent, because the ship 
was to go home; and the ship did not go home because 
there was, first, a revolution in Panama, and then a war 
between the Central American states, both which required 
the Wachusetfs presence. Mr. Cleveland was elected at 
this time; there was a change of administration, and with 
a new Secretary a lapse of Departmental interest. The 
ship did not go to San Francisco till September, 1885, 
nearly a year after the admiral's proposition reached me. 

The year had not been unfruitful, however. Naturally 
predisposed, as I have said, my mind ran continually on 
my subject. I imagined various formations for developing 
to the best effect the powers of steamships, and sudden 
changes to be instituted as the moment of collision ap- 
proached, calculated to disconcert the opponent, or to sur- 
prise an advantage before he could parry. Spinning cob- 
webs out of one's unassisted brain, without any previous 
absorption from external sources, was doubtless a some- 
what crude process; yet it had advantages. One of my 
manoeuvres was to pass a column of ships by an un- 
expected flank movement across the head of an enemy^s 
column. This I have since heard called "capping;'' if, at 
least, I correctly understand that word. Putting it after- 
wards before a body of officers attending the College 
course, all men of years and experience, one said to me, 
derisively, " Do you suppose an enemy would let you do 

274 



THE TURNING OF A LONG TANE 

that?" "It is a question of how quick he is," I replied. 
" In these days of twelve or fifteen knots he will have no 
time to ponder, and scarcely time to act." The query il- 
lustrates a habit of mind frequently met. It is like dis- 
cussing the merits of a thrust en carte. If the other man 
is quick enough, he will parry; if not, he will be run 
through; sooner or later the more skilful usually will get in. 
Naval history gave me more anxiety, and I afterwards 
found it was that which Luce particularly desired of me. 
I shared the prepossession, common at that time, that the 
naval history of the past was wholly past ; of no use at all 
to the present. I well recall, during my first term at the 
College, a visit from a reporter of one of the principal New 
York journals. He was a man of rotund presence, florid 
face, thrown-back head, and flowing hair, with all that 
magisterial condescension which the environment of the 
Fourth Estate nourishes in its fortunate members; the 
Roman citizen was "not in it" for birthright. To my bad 
luck a plan of Trafalgar hung in evidence, as he stalked 
from room to room. "Ah," he said, with superb up-to- 
date pity, "you are still talking about Trafalgar;" and I 
could see that Trafalgar and I were thenceforth on the top 
shelf of fossils in the collections of his memory. This point 
of view was held by very many. " You won't find much to 
say about history," was the direct discouraging comment of 
an older oflicer. On the other hand. Sir Geoffrey Hornby, 
less well known in this country than in Great Britain, where 
twenty years ago he was recognized as the head of the pro- 
fession, distinctly commended to me the present value of 
naval history. I myself, as I have just confessed, had had 
the contrary impression — a tradition passively accepted. 
Thus my mind was troubled how to establish relations be- 
tween yesterday and to-day; so wholly ignorant was I of 
the undying reproduction of conditions in their essential 
bearings — a commonplace of military art. 

275 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

He who seeks, finds, if he does not lose heart; and to me, 
continuously seeking, came from within the suggestion that 
control of the sea was an historic factor which had ne^'er 
been systematically appreciated and expounded. Once 
formulated consciously, this thought became the nucleus 
of all my writing for twenty years then to come ; and here I 
may state at once what I conceive to have been my part 
in popularizing, perhaps in making effective, an argument 
for which I could by no means claim the rights of discovery. 
Not to mention other predecessors, with the full roll of 
whose names I am even now unacquainted. Bacon and 
Raleigh, three centuries before, had epitomized in a few 
words the theme on which I was to write volumes. That 
they had done so was, indeed, then unknown to me. For 
me, as for them, the light dawned first on my inner con- 
sciousness; I owed it to no other man. It has since been 
said by more than one that no claim for originality could 
be allowed me; and that I wholly concede. What did fall 
to me was, that no one since those two great Englishmen 
had undertaken to demonstrate their thesis by an analysis 
of history, attempting to show from current events, through 
a long series of years, precisely what influence the command 
of the sea had had upon definite issues; in brief, a concrete 
illustration. In the preface to my first work on the sub- 
ject, for the success of which I was quite unprepared, I 
stated this as my aim: "An estimate of the effect of 
Sea Power upon the course of history and the prosperity 
of nations; . . . resting upon a collection of special instances, 
in which the precise effect has been made clear by an 
analysis of the conditions at the given moments." This 
field had been left vacant, yielding me my opportunity; 
and concurrently therewith, untouched from the point of 
view proposed by me, there lay the whole magnificent series 
of events constituting maritime history since the days of 
Raleigh and Bacon, after the voyages of Columbus and 

276 



THE TURNING OF A LONG LANE 

De Gama gave the impetus to over-sea activities, colonies, 
and commerce, which distinguishes the past three hundred 
years. Even of this hmited period I have occupied but 
a part, though I fear I have skimmed the cream of that 
which it offers; but back behind it he virgin fields, in the 
careers of the Itahan repubhcs, and others yet more re- 
mote in time, which can never be for me to narrate, al- 
though I have examined them attentively. 

I cannot now reconstitute from memory the sequence of 
my mental processes ; but while my problem was still wrest- 
ling with my brain there dawned upon me one of those con- 
crete perceptions which turn inward darkness into light — 
give substance to shadow. The Wachusett was lying at 
Callao, the seaport of Lima, as dull a coast town as one 
could dread to see. Lima being but an hour distant, we 
frequently spent a day there; the English Club extending 
to us its hospitality. In its library was Mommsen's His- 
tory of Rome, which I gave myself to reading, especially the 
Hannibalic episode. It suddenly struck me, whether by 
some chance phrase of the author I do not know, how dif- 
ferent things might have been could Hannibal have in- 
vaded Italy by sea, as the Romans often had Africa, in- 
stead of by the long land route ; or could he, after arrival, 
have been in free communication with Carthage by water. 
This clew, once laid hold of, I followed up in the particu- 
lar instance. It and the general theory already conceived 
threw on each other reciprocal illustration; and between 
the two my plan waj formed by the time I reached home, 
in September, 1885. I would investigate coincidently the 
general history and naval history of the past two cen- 
turies, with a view to demonstrating the influence of the 
events of the one upon the other. Original research was 
not within my scope, nor was it necessary to the scheme 
thus outhned. 

Perhaps it is only a subtle form of egotism, but as a 

277 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

condition of my life experience I could ^vit^ll to convey to 
others an appreciation of my profound ignorance of both 
classes of history when I began, being then forty-five; not 
that I mean to imply that now, or at any timiC since, I 
have deluded myself with the imagination that I have be- 
come an historian after the high modern pattern. I tackled 
my job much as I presume an immigrant begins a clearing 
in the wilderness, not troubling greatly which tree he takes 
first. I laid my hands on whatever came along, reading 
with the profound attention of one who is looking for 
something; and the something was kind enough to ac- 
knowledge my devotion by shining forth in unexpected 
ways and places. Any hne of investigation, however un- 
systematic in method, branches out in many directions, 
suggests continually new sources of information, to one in- 
terested in his work; and I have felt constantly the force 
of Johnson's dictum as to the superior profit from time 
spent in reading what is congenial over the drudgery of 
constrained application. Every faculty I possessed was 
alive and jumping. Incidentally, I took up the study of 
land warfare, using Jomini and Hamley. For naval his- 
tory the first book upon which I chanced — the word is 
exact — was just w^hat I needed at that stage. It was a 
history of the French navy, by a Lieutenant Lapeyrouse- 
Bonfils, published about 1845. As naval history pure and 
simple, I think little of it; but the author had a quiet, 
philosophical way of summing up causes and effects in 
general history, as connected with maritime affairs, which 
not only corresponded closely with my own purpose, but 
suggested to me new material for thought — novel illus- 
tration. Such treatment was with him only casual, but 
it opened to me new prospects. 

It would be difficult to define precisely to what degree 
the art of naval warfare had been formulated, or even 
consciously conceived, in 1885. There could scarcely be 

278 



THE TURNING OF A LONG LANE 

said to exist any systematic treatment, or extensive com- 
mentary by acknowledged experts, such as for generations 
had illmninated the theory of land warfare. Naval his- 
tories abomided, but by far the most part were simply 
narratives. Some valuable research, how^ever, had then 
recently been done; notably by Captain Chevalier, of the 
French navy, who had produced from French documents 
a history of the maritime war connected with the American 
struggle for independence. This he followed with a less 
exhaustive account of the wars of the French Revolution 
and Empire, which also appeared in time for me to use. 
These were marked by running comment, rather than 
by a studied criticism such as that of Jomini or Napier. 
In Great Britain, James held, and I think still holds, the 
field for exhaustive collection of information, docimientary 
or oral in origin, during the period treated by him, 1793- 
1815; but he has not a mihtary idea in his head beyond 
that of downright hard fighting, punishing and being pun- 
ished. In his pages, to take a tactical advantage seems 
almost a disgrace. The Navy Records Society of Great 
Britain had not then begun the fruitful labors which with- 
in the last decade and a half has made accessible in print 
a very large amount of new matter; nor had the late Ad- 
miral Colomb published his comprehensive book. Naval 
Warfare. So far as I was concerned, the old works of 
Lediard, Entick, Campbell, Beatson, — in French, Paul 
Hoste, Troude, Guerin, and others equally remote, — had to 
be my main rehance ; though numerous modern scattered 
monographs, English and French, were existent. In con- 
nection with these one of my most interesting experiences 
was lighting upon a paper in the Revue Maritime et Colo- 
niale, describing in full the Four Days' battle between the 
English and Dutch in 1666. It purported to be, and I 
have no doubt was, from a personal letter recently discov- 
ered; but I subsequently found it almost word for word 

279 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

in the Memoires du Comte de Guiche, also a participant, 
printed in 1743. This Revue contained many able and 
suggestive articles, historical and professional, as did the 
British Journal of the United Service Institution; each be- 
ing in its own country a principal medium for the exchange 
of professional views. Conspicuous in these contributions 
to naval history and thought, in England, were Admiral 
Colomb and Professor Laughton; upon the last named of 
whom, since these words were first written, has been be- 
stowed the honor of knighthood, a recognition in the even- 
ing of life which will be heartily welcomed by his many 
naval friends on both sides of the Atlantic. In short, 
apart from the first-hand inquiry which I did not yet at- 
tempt, the material available in 1885 was chiefly histories 
written long before, supplemented by a great many scat- 
tered papers of more recent date. 

Before leaving this part of my experience I will say a 
good word for Campbell's Lives of the Admirals, so far as 
his own work — down to 1744 — is concerned. Under this 
title it is really a history of the British navy, very well 
done for enabhng a professional man to understand the 
naval operations; but, more than this, maritime occurrences 
of other sorts, commercial movement, and naval policy, are 
presented clearly, and with sufficient fulness to illustrate 
the influence of sea power in its broadest sense upon the 
general history. Bearing, as it does, strong indications 
of a full use of accessible accounts, contemporary with 
the events narrated, I know no naval work superior to it 
for lucidity and breadth of treatment. Campbell was he 
of whom Dr. Johnson said: '^ Campbell is a good man, 
a pious man; I am afraid he has not been inside a church 
for many years; but he never passes a church without 
puUing off his hat. This shows he has good principles." 

In history other than naval I was for my object as fort- 
unate as I had been in Lapeyrouse - Bonflls. An acci- 

280 



THE TURNING OF A LONG LANE 

dent first placed in my hands Henri Martin's History of 
France. I happened to see the volumes, then unknown 
to me, on the shelves of a friend. The Enghsh translation 
of Martin covered only the reigns of Louis XIV. and XV., 
and of Louis XVI. to 1783, the close of the War of American 
Independence. The scope of my first book, The Influence 
of Sea Power upon History, coincides precisely with this 
period, and may thus have been determined. I think, 
however, that the beginning of the work was fixed for me 
by the essentially new departure in the history of Eng- 
land and France, connoted by the almost simultaneous 
accession of Charles 11. and Louis XIV. ; while the end was 
dictated by the necessity to stop and take breath. Be- 
sides, I had to lecture, which for the moment interrupted 
both reading and writing. The particular value of Martin 
to me was the attention paid by him to commercial and 
maritime policy, as shown in those frank methods of na- 
tional regulation which in the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries characterized all governments, but were to be 
seen in their simplest and most efficient executive opera- 
tion in an absolute monarchy. A more advanced age may 
doubt the wisdom of such manipulation of trade; but in 
the hands of a genius like Colbert it became a very active 
and powerful force, the workings of which were the more 
impressive for their directness. They could be easily fol- 
lowed. Whatever Martin's views on political economy, 
he was in profound sympathy with Colbert as an adminis- 
trator, and enlarged much on his commercial poHcy as 
conducing to the financial stability upon which that great 
statesman sought to found the primacy of his country. 
To one as ignorant as I was of mercantile movement, the 
story of Colbert's methods, owing to their pure autocracy, 
was a kind of introductory primer to this element of sea 
power. Thus received, the impression was both sharper 
and deeper. New light was shed upon, and new emphasis 

281 



/ 

FROM SAIL TO STEAIVI 

given to, the commonplace assertion of the relations be- 
tween commerce and a navy ; civil and military sea power. 
While I have no claim to mastery of the arguments for and 
against free trade and protection, Colbert, as expounded 
by Martin, sent me in later days to the study of trade 
statistics; as indicative of naval or political conditions de- 
flecting commercial interchange, and influencing national 
prosperity. The strong interest such searches had for me 
may show a natural bent, and certainly conduced to the 
understanding of sea power in its broadest sense. Martin 
set my feet in the way, though Campbell helped me much 
by incidental mention. 

It is now accepted with naval and military men who 
study their profession, that history supplies the raw ma- 
terial from which they are to draw their lessons, and reach 
their working conclusions. Its teachings are not, indeed, 
pedantic precedents; but they are the illustrations of liv- 
ing principles. Napoleon is reported to have said that on 
the field of battle the happiest inspiration is often but a 
recollection. The authority of Jomini chiefly set me to 
study in this fashion the many naval histories before me. 
From him I learned the few, very few, leading considera- 
tions in military combination; and in these I found the key 
by which, using the record of saiUng navies and the actions 
of naval leaders, I could elicit, from the naval histor}^ upon 
which I had looked despondingly, instruction still perti- 
nent. The actual course of the several campaigns, or of the 
particular battles, I worked out as one does any historical 
conclusion, by comparison of the individual witnesses pre- 
sented in the several accounts; but the result of this con- 
structive process became to me something more than a 
narrative. Both the general outcome and the separate in- 
cidents passed through tests which formed in me an habit- 
ual critical habit of mind. My judgments, one or all, might 
be erroneous; but, right or wrong, what I brought before 

282 



THE TURNING OF A LONG LANE 

myself was no mere portrayal, accurate as I could achieve, 
but a rational whole, of composite cause and effect, with 
its background and foreground, its centre of interest and 
argument, its greater and smaller details, its decisive cul- 
mination; for even to a drawn battle or a neutral issue 
there is something which definitely prevented success. It 
was the same with questions of n,aval policy. Jomini's 
dictum, that the organized forces of the enemy are ever 
the chief objective, pierces like a two-edged sword to the 
joints and marrow of many specious propositions; to that 
of the French postponement of immediate action to "ul- 
terior objects/' or to Jefferson's reliance upon raw citizen 
soldiery, a mob ready disorganized to the enemy's hands 
when he saw fit to lay on. From Jomini also I imbibed 
a fixed disbelief in the thoughtlessly accepted maxim 
that the statesman and general occupy unrelated fields. 
For this misconception I substituted a tenet of my own, 
that war is simply a violent political movement; and from 
an expression of his, "The sterile glory of fighting battles 
merely to win them," I deduced, what military men are 
prone to overlook, that ^'War is not fighting, but busi- 
ness." 

It was with such hasty equipment that I approached my 
self-assigned task, to show how the control of the sea, 
commercial and military, had been an object powerful to 
influence the policies of nations; and equally a mighty 
factor in the success or failure of those policies. This re- 
mained my guiding aim ; but incidentally thereto I had by 
this determined to prepare a critical analysis of the naval 
campaigns and battles, a decision for which I had to thank 
Jomini chiefly. This w^ould constitute in measure a treat- 
ment of the art of naval war; not formal, nor systematic, 
but in the nature of commentary, developing and illustrat- 
ing principles. I may interject, as possibly suggestive to 
professional men, that such current comment on historical 

283 



/ 



FROM SAIL TO STEAiM 

events will lead them on, as it led me irresistibly, to di- 
gest the principles thus drawn out; reproducing them in 
concise definitions, applicable to the varying circum- 
stances of naval warfare, — an elementary treatise. This 
I did also, somewhat later, in a series of lectures; which, 
though necessarily rudimentary, I understand still form 
a groundwork of instruction at the War College. For 
the framework of general history, which was to serve as 
a setting to my particular thesis, I relied upon the usual 
accredited histories of the period, as I did upon equally 
well-known professional histories for the nautical details. 
The subject lay so much on the surface that my hand- 
ling of it could scarcely suffer materially from possible 
future discoveries. What such or such an unknown man 
had said or done on some back-stairs, or written to some 
unknown correspondent, if it came to light, was not likely 
to affect the received story of the external course of mili- 
tary or political events. Did I make a mistake in the 
detail of some battle, as I got one fleet on the ^vrong tack 
in Byng's action, or as in the much-argued case of Torring- 
ton at Beachy Head, it would for my leading purpose do 
little more harm than a minor tactical error does to the 
outcome of a large strategic plan, when accurately con- 
ceived. As a colleague phrased it to me, speaking of the 
cautious dehberation of some men, " A second-best position 
to-day is better than a first-best to-morrow, when the occa- 
sion has passed." Strike while the iron is hot! and be- 
tween reading and thinking my iron was very hot by the 
time I laid it on the anvil. Moreover, I had to meet the 
emergency of lecturing, one of the main reliances of our 
incipient undertaking. 

I had begim my reading with Lapeyrouse - Bonfils, in 
October, 1885. The preceding summer at Panama had 
so far affected my health as to cause a month's severe 
illness in the winter; and when recovered I unguardedly 

284 



THE TURNING OF A LONG LANE 

let myself in for another month's work, on naval tactics, 
which might have been postponed. Hence the end of the 
following May had arrived before I began to write; but 
I was so full of matter, absorbed or evolved, that I ran 
along with steady pace, and by September had on paper, 
in lecture form, all of my first Sea Power book, except the 
summary of conclusions which constitutes the final chap- 
ter. Before publication, in 1890, the whole had been very 
carefully revised ; but the changes made were mostly in the 
details of battles, or else verbal in character, to develop 
discussions in amplitude or clearness. Battles had been 
to me at first a secondary consideration ; hence for revision 
I had accumulated many fresh data, notably from two 
somewhat scarce books: Naval Battles in the West Indies, 
by Lieutenant Matthews, and Naval Researches, by Captain 
Thomas White, British officers contemporary and partici- 
pant in the events which they narrate of the War of Amer- 
ican Independence. 

A lecturer is little hampered by the exactions of style; 
indeed, the less he ties himself to his manuscript, the more 
he can talk to his audience rather than read, and the more 
freely his command of his subject permits him to digress 
pertinently, the better he holds attention. When I found 
after my first course that the treatment was to my hearers 
interesting as well as novel, the thought of publishing en- 
tered my mind; and while I had no expectation or am- 
bition to become a styhst, the question of style gradually 
forced itself on my consideration. I intend to state some 
of my conclusions, because the casual remarks of others, 
authors or critics, have been helpful to me. Why should 
not style as well as war have its history and biography, to 
which each man may contribute an unpretentious mite? 
Notably, I got much comfort from Darwin's complaint of 
frequent recurrences of inability to give adequate expres- 
sion to thoughts, which he could then put down only in 
»«> 285 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

such crude, imperfect form as the moment suggested, leav- 
ing the task of elaboration to a more propitious season. 
If so great a man was thus troubled, no strange thing was 
happening to me in a hke experience. Such good cheer in 
intellectual as well as moral effort is one of the best ser- 
vices of biography and history, raising to the rank of min- 
istering spirits the men whose struggles and success they 
tell. Was not Washington greater at Valley Forge than 
at Yorktown? and Nelson beating against a head wind 
than at Trafalgar? Johnson has anticipated Darwin's 
method in advice given in his Gargantuan manner: "Do 
not exact from yourself, at one effort of excogitation, pro- 
priety of thought and elegance of expression. Invent first, 
and then embellish. The production of something, where 
nothing was before, is an act of greater energy than the ex- 
pansion or decoration of the thing produced. Set down 
diligently your thoughts as they arise in the first words 
that occur, and, when you have matter, you will easily give 
it form." To TroUope I owed a somewhat different prac- 
tical maxim. His theory was that a man could turn out 
manuscript as steadily as a shoemaker shoes — his precise 
simile, if I remember; and he prided himself on penning 
his full tale each day. I could not subscribe to this, and 
think that Trollope's work, of which I am fond, shows the 
bad effect; but I did imbibe a contempt for yielding to the 
feeling of incapacity, and put myself steadily to my desk 
for my allotted time, writing what I could. Whether the 
result were ten words or ten hundred I tried to regard 
with equanimity. 

I have never purposely attempted to imitate the style 
of any writer, though I unscrupulously plagiarize an apt 
expression. But gradually, and almost unconsciously, I 
formed a habit of closely scrutinizing the construction of 
sentences by others ; generally a fault-finding habit. As I 
progressed, I worked out a theory for myself, just as I had 

28G 



THE TURNING OF A LONG LANE 

the theory of the influence of sea power. Style, I said, has 
two sides. It is first and above all the expression of a 
man's personality, as characteristic as any other trait; or, 
as some one has said — was it Buff on? — style is the man 
himself. From this point of view it is susceptible of train- 
ing, of development, or of pruning; but to attempt to 
pattern it on that of another person is a mistake. For one 
chance of success there are a dozen of failure; for you are 
trying to raise a special product from a soil probably un- 
congenial, or a fruit from an alien stem — figs from vines. 
But beyond this there is to style an artificial element, which 
I conceive to be indicated by the word technique as applied 
to the arts ; though it is possible that I misapprehend the 
term, being ignorant of art. In authorship I understand 
by technique mainly the correct construction of periods, 
by the proper collocation of their parts. I subscribe 
heartily to the opinion I have seen attributed to Steven- 
son, that everything depends upon the order of the words; 
and this, in my judgment, should make the sentence as 
nearly as possible independent of punctuation. 

Further, there are many awkwardnesses of expression 
which proper training or subsequent practice can eliminate; 
and in proportion as a writer attains the faculty of in- 
stinctively avoiding these, his technique improves. Per- 
fected, he would never use them, and his sentences would 
flow untaught from his pen in absolutely clear reflection of 
his thought. As an example of what I mean by awkward- 
nesses, I would cite the use of "whose" as the possessive 
of "which." I know that adequate authority pronounces 
this correct, so it is not on that score I reject it. Moreover, 
I recognize that in myself the repulsion is somewhat of an 
acquired taste. When I began to write I thus employed it 
myself, but its sound is sc inevitably suggestive of "who" 
as to constitute an impertinence of association. I have 
lately been reading a very excellent history of the United 

287 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

States, in which the frequent repetition of "whose" in 
this sense causes me the sensation of perpetually "stub- 
bing" my toe; an Americanism, which, I will explain to 
any British reader, means stumbling over roots or on an 
unequal pavement, the irritation of which needs not ex- 
position. 

In the matter of natural style I soon discovered that the 
besetting anxiety of my soul was to be exact and lucid. 
I might not succeed, but my wish was indisputable. To 
be accurate in facts and correct in conclusions, both as to 
appreciation and expression, dominated all other motives. 
This had a weak side. I was nervously susceptible to 
being convicted of a mistake; it upset me, as they say. 
Even where a man writes, this is a defect of a quality; in 
active life it entails slowness of decision and procrastina- 
tion, failure " to get there." I have no doubt that much 
contemporary writing suffers delay from a like morbid 
dread as to possibility of error. The aim to be thus both 
accurate and clear often encumbered my sentences. My 
cautious mind strove to introduce between the same two 
periods every qualification, whether in abatement or en- 
forcement of the leading idea or statement. This in many 
cases meant an accumulation of clauses, over which I ex- 
ercised my ingenuity and lavished my time so to arrange 
them that the whole should be at once apprehended by 
the reader. It was not enough for me that the quahfi- 
cations should appear a page or two before, or after, and 
in this I think myself right; but in wanting them all in 
the same period, as I instinctively did, — and do, for nat- 
ure is obstinate, — I have imposed on myself needless labor, 
and have often taxed attention as an author has no right 
to do. Unless under pressing necessity, I myself will not 
be at pains to read what I can with difficulty understand. 

It is to this anxiety for full and accurate development 
of statements and ideas that I chiefly attribute a diffuse- 

288 



THE TURNING OF A LONG LANE 

ness with which my writing has been reproached: I have 
no doubt justly. I have not, however, tried to check the 
evil at the root. I am built that way, and think that way; 
all roimd a subject, as far as I can see it. I am uneasy if 
a presentment err by defect, by excess, or by obscurity ap- 
parent to myself. I must get the whole in; and for due 
emphasis am very probably redundant. I am not willing 
to attempt seriously modifying my natural style, the re- 
flection of myself, lest, while digging up the tares of pro- 
lixity I root up also the wheat of precision. The difference 
emphasized by Dr. Johnson, "between notions borrowed 
from without and notions generated within," seems to me 
to apply to the mode of expression as well as to the idea 
expressed. The two spring from the same source, and cor- 
respond. You impress more forcibly by retaining your 
native manner of statement; chastened where necessary, 
but not defaced by an imitation, even of a self-erected, yet 
artificial, standard. It does not do to meddle too much 
with yourself. But I do resort to a weeding process in 
revising; a verb or an adjective, an expletive or a superla- 
tive, is dragged out and cast away. Even so, as often as 
not, I have to add. The words above, " as far as I can see 
it," have just been put in. Of course, in the interest of 
readers, I resort to breaking up sentences; but to me per- 
sonally the result is usually distasteful. The reader takes 
hold more easily, as a child learns spelling by division into 
syllables; but I am conscious that instead of my thoughts 
constituting a group mutually related, and so reproducing 
the "essential me, they are disjointed and must be reassem- 
bled by others. 

A man untrained in youth, and who has never sys- 
tematically sought to repair the defect, can scarcely hope 
fully to compass technique in style. He will thus lose 
some part of that which he may gain by being more nearly 
his natural self; for there is a real gain in this. Such ad- 

289 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

vance as I have made in technique — and I trust I have 
made some — I have owed to the critical running analysis 
of the construction of sentences, which has been my habit 
ever since I began to write. That this is constant with 
me, subconsciously, is shown by the frequency with which 
it passes into a conscious logical recasting of what I read. 
To get antecedents and consequents as near one another as 
possible ; qualifying words or phrases as close as may be to 
that which they qualify; an object near its verb; to avoid 
an adjective which applies to one of two nouns being so 
placed as to seem to quahfy both; such minute details 
seem to me worthy of the utmost care, and I think I can 
trace advance in these respects. My experiments tend to 
show that the natural order of nominative, verb, object, is 
usually preferable; and as a rule I find that adverbs and 
adverbial phrases fall best between nominative and verb. 
Still, the desirability of tying each period to its prede- 
cessor, as does the rhyme of the fourth and fifth lines 
of a sonnet, will modify arrangement. In reading another 
author, where such precaution as I name is neglected, a 
word misplaced in its relation to the others of the sentence 
runs my mind off the track, like an engine on a misplaced 
switch, and I dislike the trouble of backing to get on the 
right rails. It is the same with my own work, if time 
enough elapses between composition and subsequent read- 
ing. Generally I make such time, either in manuscript or 
proofs; but I am chagrined when I meet shps in the printed 
page, as I too often do. There is no provision against such 
fault equal to laying the text aside till it has become un- 
familiar; but even this is not certain, for construction, being 
consonant to your permanent mode of thinking, may not 
when erroneous jar upon you as upon another. 

In acquiring an automatic habit, which technique should 
become, principles tend to crystallize into rules, and a few 
such I have; counsels of perfection many of these, too 

290 



THE TURNING OF A T.ONG LANE 

often unrealized. I do not like the same word repeated in 
the same paragraph, though this lays a heavy tax on so- 
called synonymes. Assonances jar me, even two termi- 
nations "tion" near together. I will not knowingly use 
"that'' for "which," except to avoid two "whiches" be- 
tween the same two periods. The split infinitive I abhor, 
more as a matter of taste than argument. I recognize that 
it is at times very tempting to snuggle the adverb so close 
to the verb ; but I hold fast my integrity. Once, indeed, I 
took it into my head not to spht compound tenses, and 
carried this fad somewhat remorselessly through a series 
of republished articles; but the result has not pleased me. 
Boswell tells us that Johnson w^ould have none of "former" 
and "latter;" that he would rather repeat the noun than 
resort to this subterfuge. I see no good reason for re- 
jecting these convenient alternatives; but nevertheless I 
have obsequiously bowed to the autocrat and taken a 
skurmer to the words — the only literary snobbishness of 
which I am conscious. I can stand out against Macaulay's 
proscription of prepositions ending sentences. Although 
I generally twist them round, they often please my ear 
there. It is not exactly in point, but I have always re- 
joiced over "Silver was nothing accounted of" in the days 
of King Solomon ; indeed, I was brought to book by a proof- 
reader for concluding a sentence with "accounted of." I 
let it stand, so taking was it to me. 

The question doubtless occurs to most authors how far 
they are under bonds to the King's Enghsh. As to gram- 
mar, I submit; the consequences of anarchy dismay me; 
but I question whether in words coinage is an attribute of 
sovereignty. There is, of course, plenty of false money go- 
ing around, current because accepted; but I think a man 
is at liberty to pass a new word, a word without authority 
in dictionaries, if it be congruous to standard etymology. 
I once wrote "eventless;" but, on looking, found it not. 

291 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

Yet why not? "Homeless/' "heartless," "shoeless," etc.; 
why merely "uneventful," a form only one letter longer, 
it is true, but built up to "eventful" to be pulled down 
to "uneventful"? Besides, "uneventful" does not mean 
the same as "eventless." "Doubtless" and "undoubted- 
ly" differ by more than a shade in sense, and we have 
both. So we have " anywhere," " nowhere," " somewhere," 
"everywhere;" why not "man3rvvhere," if you need it? 
Again, if "hitherto" be good — and it is — why not "thith- 
erto"? In the case of "eccentric" as a military term, I 
felt forced to frame "ex-centric;" the former — I ask Dr. 
Johnson's pardon — has, in America at least, become so 
exclusively associated with the secondary though cognate 
idea of singularity that it would not convey its restricted 
military significance to a lay reader. 

I had been assigned to the War College in October, 1885, 
Admiral Luce being still its president, but I did not go 
into residence until the end of the following August. Luce 
had then been for some months detached, to command the 
North Atlantic fleet, and I had succeeded him by default, 
without special orders that I can remember. He was 
anxious for me to live on the spot, to be "on deck," as he 
phrased it, for the College had many enemies and few 
friends; and matters were not helped by a sharp official 
collision that summer between him and Secretary Whit- 
ney, who from indifference passed into antagonism. I can- 
not say that his change was due to this cause, and for a 
long time his hostility did not take form in act. Now 
that the College, after twenty years, has had the warm en- 
comium of the President of the United States in his mes- 
sage to Congress, it is interesting to a veteran recipient 
of its early buffets to recall conditions. In my two years' 
incumbency we got decidedly more kicks than halfpence. 
Yet in retrospect it gains. A prominent New York lawyer 
once told me of a young man from a distant State con- 

292 



THE TURNING OF A LONG LANE 

suiting him with a view to practising in the city. In re- 
sponse to some cautious warning as to the difficulties, he 
said : '^ Do you mean that with my education and capacity 
I cannot expect rapid success?" "I fear not/' replied the 
mentor. A few months later they met casually. "Are 
you getting on as fast as you had hoped?" asked the 
older man. "No/' admitted the other, "but it's heaps of 
fun." He doubtless got on, and so did the College. I at 
the time was less appreciative of the fun, but I liked the 
work, and now I see also the comical side. 

Between the early favor of the Department and his own 
energy. Luce had given the College a good send-off, like a 
skiff shoved by hand from the wharf into mid -stream. 
There remained only to keep it moving. We had an ap- 
propriation, and a building that was ready for lecturing; 
with also two as yet uncompleted suites of quarters, for 
myself and one other officer. We had also a very respect- 
able library, in which, among many valuable works, con- 
spicuously selected with an eye to our special objects, I 
recall with amusement certain ancient encyclopaedias, con- 
tributed apparently by well-wishers from stock which had 
begun to encumber their shelves. Howbeit, hke Quaker 
guns, these made a brave show if not too closely scrutinized, 
and spared us the semblance of poverty in vacant spaces. 
Every military man understands the value of an imposing 
front towards the enemy. When I arrived, I was the sole 
occupant of the building; and except an army officer — 
now General Tasker Bliss — was the only attache. As I 
walked round the lonely halls and stairways, I might have 
parodied Louis XIV., and said, "Le College, c^est moi.^^ I 
had, indeed, an excellent steward, who attended to my meals 
and made my bed. There was but one lamp available, 
which I had to carry with me when I went from room to 
room by night; and, indeed, except for the roof over my 
head, I might be said to be "camping out." There was 

293 



FRO:\r SAIL TO STEAM 

yet a month before the class of officers was to arrive. This 
interval was more than occupied preparing the necessary 
maps for my lectures, much of the time by my lonely light. 
Owing to lack of regular assistance, a great part of the map 
work was done by my own hands, often sprawled on the floor 
as my best table; though I w^as fortunate in receiving 
much voluntary help from a retired lieutenant, now Cap- 
tain McCarty Little, then and always an enthusiastic advo- 
cate of the College, who did some of the drafting and all 
the coloring. Thus were put together three of the four 
maps w^hich afterwards appeared in my first book. The 
fourth, of the North Atlantic Ocean, was begged of the 
hydrographer of the navy; a friendly Rhode Island man. 

Besides the maps, there were to be produced some twenty 
or more battle plans. For these I hit on a device which I 
can recommend. I cut out a number of cardboard vessels, 
of different colors for the contending na\des, and these I 
moved about on a sheet of drawing-paper imtil satisfied 
that the graphic presentation corresponded with facts and 
conditions. They were then fastened in place with muci- 
lage. This saved a great deal of drawing in and rubbing out, 
and by using complementary colors gave vivid impression. 
In combats of sailing fleets you must look out sharp, or 
in some arrangement, otherwise plausible, you will have 
a ship saiUng within four points of the wind before you 
know it. Nor is this the only way truth may be insulted. 
Times and distances also lay snares for incautious steps. I 
noticed once in an account of an action two times, with 
corresponding positions, which made a frigate in the mean- 
while run at eighteen knots under topsails. 

By such shifts we scrambled along as best we could our 
first year, content with beef without horseradish, as Sam 
Weller has it; hitching up with rope when a trace gave 
way, in the blessed condition of those w^ho are not expect- 
ing favors. But worse was to come. Besides the general 

294 



THE TURNING OF A LONG LANE 

offence against conservatism by being a new thing, the 
College specifically had poached its building from another 
manor. It stood upon the grounds of the Naval Training 
Station, for apprentices, which considered itself defrauded 
of property and intruded upon by an alien jurisdiction — 
an imjperium in imperio. The two w^re not even under 
the same bureau, so the antagonism existed in Washington 
as well as locally; and now a Secretary of malevolent neu- 
trahty. Truly some one was needed "on deck;" though 
just what he could do with such a barometer did not ap- 
pear, unless he bore up under short canvas, like Nelson, 
who "made it a rule never to fight the northwesters." 
And such was very much our policy; reefed close down, 
looking out for squalls at any moment from any quarter, 
saying nothing to nobody, content to be let alone, if only 
we might be so let. Small sail; and no weather hehn, if 
you please. One most alleviating circumstance was the 
commandant of the training station, the local enemy, one 
of the born saints of the earth, Arthur Yates. Officially, of 
course he disapproved of us; professional self-respect and 
precedent, bureau allegiance, and all the rest of it, were 
outraged; but when it came to deeds, Yates could not 
have imagined an unkind act, much less done it. Nor did 
he stop there; good-will wdth him was not a negative but 
an active quality. What we w^anted he would always do, 
and then go one better, if he could find a way to add to 
our convenience; and when we ultimately came to grief, 
after his departure, he wrote me a letter of condolence. 
Altogether, while clouds were gathering in Washington, it 
was perpetual sunshine at home as to official and personal 
relations. I have no doubt he would have drawn maps 
for me had I asked it. 

None the less, trouble was at hand. In 1886 we had a 
session which by general consent was very successful in 
quaUty, if not in quantity, lasting httle over two months. 

295 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

Our own bureau controlled the ordering of officers, so it 
swept together a sufficient number to form a class. We 
had several excellent series of lectures: on Gunnery in its 
higher practical aspects, by Lieutenant Meigs, who has 
since left the navy for a responsible position in the Bethle- 
hem Iron Works; on International Law, by Professor Soley, 
who under the next administration became Assistant-Secre- 
tary of the Navy; on Naval Hygiene, by a naval surgeon. 
Dr. Dean; together wdth others less notable. All these had 
been contracted for by Luce. Captain Bliss and myself, 
as yet the only two permanent attaches^ of course took our 
share. So much was new to the officers in attendance, not 
only in details but in principle, that I am satisfied nine- 
tenths of them went away friendly; some enthusiastic. 
The College had steered clear of any appearance of scientific, 
or so-called post-graduate, instruction, consecutive with 
that given at Annapolis; and had demonstrated that it 
meant to deal only with questions pertinent to the success- 
ful carrying-on of war, for promoting which no instrumen- 
tality existed elsewhere. The want had been proved, and 
a means of filling it offered. The listeners had been per- 
suaded. 

I well remember my own elation when they went away 
in the latter part of November. Success had surpassed 
expectation. But in a fortnight Congress met, and it soon 
became evident that we were to be starved out, — no ap- 
propriation. It was a short session, too; scant time for 
fighting. I went to Washington, and pleaded with the 
chairman of the House naval committee, Mr. Herbert; 
but while he was perfectly good-natured, and we have 
from then been on pleasant terms, whenever he saw me 
he set his teeth and compressed his Hps. His argument 
was: Once establish an institution, and it grows; more 
and more every year. There must be economy, and no- 
where is economy so effectually applied as to the begin- 

296 



THE TURNING OF A LONG LANE 

nings. In vain did I try to divert his thoughts to the 
magnificent endings that would come from the paltry ten 
thousand the College asked. He stopped his ears, like 
Ulysses, and kept his eyes fixed on the necessity of strang- 
ling vipers in their cradle. In vain were my efforts sec- 
onded by General Joe Wheeler, also a representative from 
Alabama, and strongly sympathetic with military thought. 
No help could be expected from the Secretary, and we got 
no funds. 

The fiscal year would end June 30, 1887. It was of no 
use to try saving from the current balance, for by law that 
must be turned in at the year's end. So we shrugged our 
shoulders and trusted to luck, which came to our assistance 
in a comical manner. For summer we were all right, or 
nearly so; but winter might freeze us out. Still, unless the 
Secretary saw fit to destroy the College by executive order, 
it had a right to be warm; so we sent in our requisition 
for heating the building. It went through the customary 
channels, was approved, and the coal in the cellars before 
the Department noticed that there was no appropriation 
against which to charge it. Upon reference to the Secre- 
tary, he decided that the coal had been ordered and sup- 
plied in good faith, and should be left and paid for. In 
fact, however, if the building was used it would have to 
be heated; the decision practically was to let the College 
retain the building. It was an excellent occasion to wipe 
us out by a stroke of the pen, but Mr. Whitney had not 
yet reached that point. The fuel, I think, was charged to 
the bureau to which the Training Station belonged, which 
would not tend to molHfy its feelings. 

Coal was our prime necessity, but it was not all. The 
hostile interest now began to cut us short in the various 
items which contribute to the daily bread of a government 
institution. We lived the year from hand to mouth. 
From the repairs put on the building a twelvemonth before 

297 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

there was left a lot of refuse scrap lying about. This we 
collected and sorted, selling what was available, on the 
principle of slush-money. Slush, the non-professional may 
be told, is the grease arising from the cooking of salt pro- 
visions. By old custom this was collected, barrelled, and 
sold for the benefit of the ship. The price remained in the 
first lieutenant's hands, to be expended for the vessel; 
usually going for beautifying. What we sold at the Col- 
lege we thus used; not for beautifying, which was far be- 
yond us, but to keep things together. This proceeding was 
irregular, and for years I preserved with nervous care the 
memoranda of what became of the money, in case of being 
questioned; although I do not think the total went much 
beyond a hundred dollars. It is surprising how much a 
hundred dollars may be made to do. For our lectures the 
hydrographer again made for the College two very large 
and handsome maps. 

The session of 1887 was longer and more complete than 
the year before; but specifically it increased our good re- 
port in the service and added to us hosts of friends. Many 
were now ready to speak in our favor, if asked; and some 
gave themselves a good deal of trouble to see this or that 
person of importance. This was a powerful reinforcement 
for the approaching struggle ; but with the Secretary biassed 
against us, and resolute opposition from the chairman of 
the committee, the odds were heavy. Mr. Whitney showed 
me a frowning countenance, quite unlike his usual bon- 
homie; and yielded only a reluctant, almost surly, " I will 
not oppose you, but I do not authorize you to express 
any approval from me." With that we began a still hunt; 
not from policy, but because no other course was open, 
and by degrees we converted all the committee but three. 
This was quite an achievement in its way; for, as one of 
the members said to me, " It is rather hard to oppose the 
chairman in a matter of this kind. Still, I am satisfied it 

298 



THE TURNING OF A LONG LANE 

is a good thing, and I will vote for it." So we got our ap- 
propriation by a big majority. Mr. Herbert was very nice 
about his discomfiture. That a set of uninfluential naval 
officers should so unexpectedly have got the better of him, 
in his position, had a humorous side which he was ready 
to see; though it is possible we, on whose side the laugh 
was, enjoyed it more. He afterwards, when Secretary of 
the Navy, came to think much better of the College, which 
flourished under him. 

I had soon to find that my mouth had more than one 
side on which to laugh. Confident that we were out of the 
woods, I proceeded to halloo; for in an address made at 
the opening of the session of 1888, alluding to the doubt long 
felt about the appropriation, I said, ^'That fear has now 
happily been removed." I reckoned without the Secre- 
tary, who issued an order, a bolt out of the blue, depriving 
the College not only of its building, but of its independent 
existence ; transferring it to the care of the commander of 
the Torpedo Station, on another island in Narragansett 
Bay. This ended my official existence as president of the 
College, and I was sent off to Puget Sound ; one of a com- 
mission to choose a site for a navy-yard there. I never 
knew, nor cared, just why Whitney took this course, but I 
afterwards had an amusing experience with him, showing 
how men forget; like my old commodore his moment of 
despondency about the outcome of the war. In later 
years he and I were members of a dining club in New York. 
I then had had my success and recognition. One evening 
I chanced to say to him, apropos of what I do not now re- 
call, " It was at the time, you know, that you sent Samp- 
son to the Naval Academy, and Goodrich to the Torpedo 
Station." "Yes," he rejoined, complacently; "and I sent 
you to the War College." It was literally true, doubtless; 
his act, though not his selection; but in view of the cold 
comfort and the petard with which he there favored me, 

299 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

for Whitney to fancy himself a patron to me, except on a 
Johnsonian definition of the word/ was as humorous a 
performance as I have known. 

So I went to Puget Sound, a very pleasant as well as in- 
teresting experience; for, having a government tender at 
our disposal, we penetrated by daylight to every corner of 
that beautiful sheet of water, the intricate windings of 
which prepare a continual series of surprises; each scene 
like the last, yet different; the successive resemblances of a 
family wherein all the members are lovely, yet individual. 
Then was there not, suburban to the city of Seattle, Lake 
Washington, a great body of fresh water? Of this, and of 
its island, blooming with beautiful villas, a delightful sum- 
mer resort in easy reach of the town by cars, we saw be- 
fore our arrival alluring advertisements and pictures, which 
were, perhaps, a little premature and impressionist. How 
seductive to the imagination was the future battle-ship fleet 
resting in placid fresh water, bottoms unfouled and little 
rusted, awaiting peacefully the call to arms; upon which 
it should issue through the canal yet to be dug between 
sound and lake, ready for instant action! Great would 
have been the glory of Seattle, and corresponding the dis- 
comfiture of its rival Tacoma, which undeniably had no 
lake, and, moreover, lay under the stigma of having tried, 
in such default, to appropriate by misnomer another grand 
natural feature; giving its own name Tacoma to Mount 
Rainier, so called by Vancouver for an ancient British 
admiral. A sharp Seattleite said that a tombstone had 
thus been secured, to preserve the remembrance of Tacoma 
when the city itself should be no more. The local nomen- 
clature affixed by Vancouver still remains in many cases. 
Puget, originally applied to one only of the many branches 

* " Is not patron, my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man . 
struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, en- 
cumbers him with help?" — Johnson to the Earl of Chesterfield. 

300 



THE TURNING OF A LONG LANE 

of the sound, was among his officers. Hood's Inlet was, 
doubtless, in honor of the great admiral. Lord Hood ; while 
Restoration Point commemorates an anniversary of the 
restoration of Charles II. As regarded Lake Washington, 
our commission was a little nervous lest an injury to the 
canal might interfere at a critical moment with the fleet's 
freedom of movement, leaving it bottled up, and wired 
down. We selected, therefore, the site where the yard 
now stands, in a singularly well - protected inlet on the 
western side of the main arm, with an anchorage of very 
moderate depth and easy current for Puget Sound. There, 
if my recollection is right, it is nearly equidistant from 
the two cities. Our judgment was challenged and another 
commission sent out. This confirmed our choice, but very 
much less land was secured than v/e had advised. 



XII 

EXPERIENCES OF AUTHORSHIP 

Before my return from Paget Sound a new adminis- 
tration had come in with President Harrison, and the War 
College was once more in favor. But its organization had 
been destroyed, and some time must elapse before it could 
get again on its legs. In the summer of 1889 a course was 
held at the Torpedo Station, where I lectured with others. 
The following winter an appropriation of one hundred thou- 
sand dollars was made for a College building; the old one 
being confirmed to the training station, which continued, 
however, strongly to oppose any use of its grounds for 
the new venture. In this it was overruled, and in 1892 the 
College started afresh in what has since been its constant 
headquarters, two hundred yards from its original position. 

In the mean time my first series of lectures had been 
published in book form, imder the title The Influence of 
Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783. This was in May, 
1890. That it filled a need was speedily evident by favor- 
able reviews, which were much more explicit and hearty 
in Europe, and especially in Great Britain, than in the 
United States. The point of view apparently possessed 
a novelty, which produced upon readers something of the 
effect of a surprise. The work has since received the fur- 
ther indorsement of translation into French, German, Jap- 
anese, Russian, and Spanish; I think into ItaHan also, but 
of this I am not certain. The same compliment has, I be- 
lieve, been paid to its successor, which carried the treat- 

302 



EXPERIENCES OF AUTHORSHIP 

ment down to the fall of Napoleon. Notably, it may be 
said that my theme has brought me into pleasant corre- 
spondence with several Japanese officials and translators, 
than whom none, as far as known to me, have shown 
closer or more interested attention to the general subject; 
how fruitfully, has been demonstrated both by their prep- 
aration and their accomplishments in the recent war. As 
far as known to myself, more of my works have been done 
into Japanese than into any other one tongue. 

In 1890 and 1891 there was no session of the College. 
During this period of suspended animation its activities 
were hmited to my own preparations for continuing the 
historical course through the wars of the French Revolu- 
tion and Empire, with a view to the resumption of teach- 
ing. I was kept on this duty; and I think no one else 
was busy in direct connection with the institution, though 
the former lecturers were for the most part available. It 
is evident how particularly fortunate such circumstances 
were to an author. For the two years that they lasted 
I had no cares beyond writing; was un vexed by either 
pecuniary anxieties or interference from my superiors. The 
College slumbered and I worked. My results, after one 
season's use as lectures, were published in two volumes, 
under the title The Influence of Sea Power upon the French 
Revolution and Empire. 

Of this work it may accurately be said that in order of 
composition it was begun with its final chapter. The ac- 
cumulation and digestion of material had been spasmodic 
and desultory, for I had hesitated much whether to pursue 
the treatment after 1783. The instability of the College 
fortunes had irritated as well as harassed me. If the navy 
did not want what I was doing, why should I persist? 
Nothing having been given to the world, I had had no out- 
side encouragement ; and little from within the profession, 
save the cordial approval of a very few officers. How- 

303 



FROM SAIL TO STEAiM 

ever, during the two years of doubtful struggle I had read 
quite widely upon the general history of the particular 
period, as well as upon the effects of sea power in the 
Peloponnesian War; together with such details as I could 
collect from Livy and Polybius of naval occurrences while 
Hannibal was in Italy. My outlook was thus enlarged; 
not upon military matters only, but by an appreciation 
of the strength of Athens, broad based upon an extensive 
system of maritime commerce. This prepared me to see 
in the Continental System of Napoleon the direct outcome 
of Great Britain's maritime supremacy, and the ultimate 
cause of his own ruin. Thus, while gathering matter, a 
conception was forming, which became the dominant feat- 
ure in my scheme by the time I began to write in earnest. 
Coincidently with these studies, and with my other occu- 
pations when at first president of the College, two introduc- 
tory chapters had been written; one bridging the interval 
between 1783 and 1793, so as to hitch on to my first book, 
the other dealing with the state of the navies at the open- 
ing of the French Revolution. 

There Mr. Whitney's action brought me up with a round 
turn. When I resumed, late in 1889, I extended my read- 
ing by Jomini's Wars of the French RepuUiCj a work in- 
structive from the political as well as military point of 
view; concurrently testing Howe's naval campaign of 1794 
by the principles advanced by the military author, which 
commended themselves to my judgment. In connection 
with this study of naval strategy, I reconstructed inde- 
pendently Howe's three engagements of May 28th and 29th, 
and June 1st, from the details given by James, Troude, and 
Chevalier, analyzing and discussing the successive tactical 
measures of the opposing admirals; in the battle of June 
1st going so far as to trace even the tracks of the fifty-odd 
individual ships throughout the action. This, the most 
complicated presentation I ever attempted, was a needless 

304 



EXPERIENCES OF AUTHORSHIP 

elaboration, though of absorbing interest to me when once 
begun. A comparison between it and the bare conven- 
tional diagram of Trafalgar in the same volumes, which has 
been criticised as not reproducing the facts, may serve to 
show how far multiplicity of minutiae conduces to clearness 
of perception. From the Trafalgar plan a reader, lay or 
professional, can grasp readily the imderlying conceptions 
upon which the battle was fought, and the manner in which 
they were executed, as commonly received; but who ever 
has tried to comprehend the movements of the vessels on 
June 1st, as I elicited them? Assuming their correctness, 
it was a mere mental diversion, in result rather confusing 
than illuminative to a student; whereas ships arranged like 
beads on a string can give an impression fundamentally 
correct, and to be apprehended at a glance. So far from 
tending to lucidity, accumulation of detail in pursuit of 
minute accuracy rather obscures. Nelson himself indicated 
his intentions sufficiently by straight lines. One merit my 
June 1st plan may possibly possess; the perplexing optical 
effect may convey better than words the intricacy of a 
naval melee. 

Coincidently with the study of military events, connoted 
by Howe's campaign and Jomini, I of course did a good 
deal of reading which here can be described only as mis- 
cellaneous; prominent amid which was Thiers's History of 
the Consulate and Empire, Napoleon's Correspondence and 
Commentaries, and the orations of Pitt and Fox. From 
Thiers, confirmed by contemporary memoirs and pam- 
phlets and other incidental mention, I gained my convic- 
tion that the Continental System was the determinative 
factor in Napoleon's fortunes after Tilsit. Pitt's speeches, 
taken with his life, seemed to me conclusive as to his pol- 
icy, despite the evil construction placed upon his acts by 
Frenchmen of his day, which Thiers has perpetuated. I 
saw clearly and conclusively, as I thought, apparent in his 

305 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

public words and private letters, a strong desire for peace, 
and a hand forced by a wilful spirit of aggression which 
momentarily had lost the balance of its reason. Making 
every allowance for the extravagances of the French rulers, 
unpractised in government and driven by a burning sense 
of mission to universal mankind, it was to me evident that 
their demands upon other nations, and notably iipon Great 
Britain, were subversive of all public order and law, and of 
international security. 

Pitt's proud resolution to withstand to the uttermost 
this tendency, coupled with his evident passionate cling- 
ing to peace as the basis of his life ambition, constituted 
to my apprehension a tragedy; of lofty personal aim and 
effort wrestling with, and slowly done to death by, op- 
posing conditions too mighty for man. The dramatic in- 
tensity of the situation was increased by the absence of 
the external dramatic appeal characteristic of his father. 
It carried the force of emotion suppressed. The bitter 
inner disappointment is veiled under the reserve of his 
private life and the reticence of his public utterance, which 
give to his personality a certain remoteness from usual joys 
and sorrows; but, the veil once pierced by sympathy, the 
human side of the younger Pitt stands revealed as of one 
who, without complaint, bore no common burden, did no 
common work, and to whom fell no common share of the 
suffering which arises from disappointment and frustration, 
in ideals and achievement. The conflict of the two motives 
in the man's steadfast nature aroused in me an enthusi- 
asm which I did not seek to check; for I believe enthu- 
siasm no bad spirit in which to realize history to yourself 
or others. It tends to bias; but bias can be controlled. 
Enthusiasm has its place, not for action only, nor for 
speaking, but in writing and in appreciation; quite as 
critical analysis and judicial impartiality have theirs. To 
deny either is to err. The moment of exaltation gone, the 

306 



EXPERIENCES OF AUTHORSHIP 

dispassionate intellect may sit in judgment upon the ex- 
pressions of thought and feeling which have been prompted 
by the stirring of the mind; but without this there lacks one 
element of true presentation. The height of full recogni- 
tion for a great event, or a great personahty, has not been 
reached. The swelling of the breast under strong emotion 
uplifts understanding. Under such influence a writer is 
to the extent of his faculties on the level of his theme. 
As for biography, I w^ould no more attempt to write that 
of a man for whom I felt no warm admiration, than I 
would maintain friendship with one for whom I had no 
affection. 

Doubtless there also was in Pitt's manner of speech, in 
the cast of his sentences, — the style that is the man him- 
self, — something which appealed especially to me. Often, 
when reading in the PubHc Library of New York a passage 
of unusual eloquence, I would be strongly moved to rise on 
the spot and give three cheers; and I heartily subscribed 
to a Latin motto on the title-page of the edition I was 
using: If you could but have heard himself. But it was 
more than that. The story increasingly impressed itself 
upon me. I saw him conscious of great capacities for the 
administration of peace, an inner conviction of far less 
ability for w^ar; with a vision of Great Britain happy and 
prosperous beyond all past experience under his enlightened 
guidance, of which already the plans had been revealed 
and proof been given, and over against this the palpable 
reality of a current too powerful to be resisted, sweeping 
her into a conflict, the end of which, amid such unprece- 
dented conditions, could not be foreseen. Also, despite all 
his deficiencies for a war ministry, as I read and studied 
the general features of the situation with which he had to 
deal, I became convinced that the broad Hnes of his poUcy 
coincided with the military necessities of the case, to an 
extent that he himself very possibly did not realize. For 

307 



FROM SAIL TO STEAiAI 

as the Directory outlined Napoleon's Continental System, 
so Pitt, unknowingly perhaps, pursued the methods, as 
he definitely predicted the means — exhaustion — by which 
his successors brought to a stop the mischievous energies 
of France under the great emperor. 

Thus, before I began to write, my leading ideas for the 
historical treatment of the influence of sea power during 
the period 1793 - 1814 rested upon an approval of the 
main features of Pitt's war policy, and sympathy with his 
personal position; upon a clear conviction of the weight 
of the Continental System as a factor in the general situa- 
tion, and of its being a direct consequence from British 
maritime supremacy; and upon a sufficiently comprehen- 
sive acquaintance with the operations of the land warfare 
up to the Peace of Amiens. Having as yet written only 
the two introductory chapters, and Howe's campaign being 
strictly episodical, the work as an organic whole was still 
before me when the summer of 1890 arrived. It was then 
thought probable that the College would at once resume, 
and in order to be at hand I settled my family in Newport, 
there addressing myself to my new lectures. Considering the 
mass of detail through which my hearers must be carried, 
I thought advisable to begin with an outline statement of 
the general political and military conditions, and of their 
sequences; a rudimentary figure, a skeleton, the nakedness 
of which should render easy to understand the mutual bear- 
ings of the several parts, and their articulations. So most 
surely could the relation of sea power to the other mem- 
bers be seen, and its influence upon them and upon the 
ultimate issue be appreciated. Before I began, I remem- 
ber explaining to a brother officer my conception of the 
Continental System as the culmination of the maritime 
struggle, w^hich in a narrowly military sense had ended 
with Trafalgar. The light thus cast would illuminate after- 
wards each of the several sections of the history, treated 

308 



EXPERIENCES OF AUTHORSHIP 

circumstantially in order of time. In short, I here applied 
to the whole the method of my diagram for Trafalgar, and 
not of that for Jmie 1st. The result was the chapter last 
in the work, as it now stands, but the first to be com- 
posed. 

A few months before book publication this chapter ap- 
peared in the Quarterly Review, under the title "Pitt's 
War Pohcy,'' chosen by me to express my recognition that 
the grand policy was his; that in it he was real as well as 
titular premier; and that in my judgment, despite the 
numerous errors of detail which demonstrated his limited 
military imderstanding, the economical comprehension of 
the statesman had developed a political strategy which 
vindicated his greatness in war as in peace. The article 
ended, as the chapter then did, with the well-known quota- 
tion, particularly apt to my appreciation, "The Pilot had 
weathered the storm.'' The few subsequent pages were 
added later. By an odd coincidence, just as I had offered 
the paper to the Quarterly, one under the same title, "by 
a Foxite," came out in another magazine. Somewhat dis- 
composed, I hurried to look this up; but found, as from 
the nom de plume might be presumed, that it did not take 
my Hne of argument, but rather, as I recall, that of Pitt's 
opponents, which Macaulay has developed with his accus- 
tomed brilliancy, although to my mind with profound mis- 
conception and superficial criticism. Fox's speeches had 
made upon me the impression of the mere objector. In- 
deed, I felt this so strongly that I had written of him as 
"the great, but factious, leader of the opposition." In 
proofreading I struck out "factious;" as needless, and as 
a generalization on insufficient premises. 

It was not till the following December — 1890 — that I 
began the two chapters next in order of composition, on 
'' The Warfare against Commerce." These occupied me late 
into the winter, covering as they did the entire period 

309 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

1793-1814, and embracing a great deal of detail. Taken 
together, these three chapters, final but first written, con- 
tain the main argument of the book. The naval occur- 
rences, brilliant and interesting as they were, are logically 
but the prelude to the death grapple. Pitt's poHcy stood 
justified, because naval supremacy, established by war, 
secured control of the seas and of maritime commerce, and 
so exhausted Napoleon. Not till this demonstration had 
been accomplished to my own satisfaction did I take up 
the narrative and discussion of warfare, land and sea. 
Thus the prelude followed the play. My memory retains 
associations which enable me definitely to fix the progress 
of the work. Thus the chapter on '' The Brest Blockade,'^ 
from its characteristics, long continuance, and incidents, 
one of the most interesting of the purely naval opera- 
tions, was composed in the summer of 1891, at Richfield; 
while the campaign and battle of Trafalgar, the last done 
of all, passed through my hands in April, 1892, in Rich- 
mond, Virginia, where I then was on court-martial duty. 

This second book was written under much more en- 
couraging circumstances than its predecessor, and with 
much greater deliberation. The first occupied me little 
over one year; the second, though covering only one-fifth 
the time, was in hand three. There were long interrup- 
tions, it is true ; the Puget Sound business, and the writing 
of a short Life of Farragut. But the chief cause of delay 
was a much more extensive preparation. This was owing 
largely to the crowded activities of the brief twenty years 
treated, and still more to wider outlook. I attempted, in- 
deed, nothing that could be called original research. I still 
relied wholly upon printed matter, but in that I wandered 
far. The privilege was accorded me of free access to the 
alcoves of what was then the Astor Library, now, while 
keeping its name, incorporated with the New York Pub- 
lic Library; and I rummaged its well-stocked shelves, 

310 



EXPERIENCES OF AUTHORSHIP 

following up every clue, especially memoirs, pamphlets, 
and magazines, contemporary with my period. From the 
estimate I had formed of the effect of commerce upon 
the outcome of the hostilities, it was necessary to digest 
the statistics of the times, much of which existed in tabu- 
lated form; and, for commercial policy, the State Papers, 
and debates in Parliament, as well as in the French Na- 
tional Convention. I now had not only interest in my 
task, but pride; for the favorable criticism upon the first 
sea-power book not only had surprised me, but had in- 
creased my ambition and my self-confidence. It was a 
distinct help that there was no expectation of pecuniary 
advantage; no publisher or magazine editor pressing for 
"copy," on which dollars depended. I now often recall 
with envy the happiness of those days, when the work was 
its own reward, and quite sufficient, too, almost as good 
as a baby; when there were no secondary considerations, 
however important, to dispute for the first place. I have 
never knowingly let work leave my hands in shape less 
good than the best I can turn out; but I have often felt 
the temptation to do so, and wished — almost, not quite — 
that there was no money in it. I recast Dr. Johnson's 
saying: "None but a blockhead would write unless he 
needed money." None but a blockhead would write for 
money, unless he had to. 

Though not embarrassed by publishers, I found a more 
formidable enemy on my tracks in 1892. There had been 
a change in the Bureau of Navigation, and the new chief, 
under whom the College was, thought my help to it less 
necessary than my going to sea. To an advocate of al- 
lowing me time, he replied, summarily, " It is not the busi- 
ness of a naval officer to write books." As an aphorism 
the remark is doubtless unassailable; but, with a policy thus 
defined, my position, again to quote Boatswain Chucks, 
became "precarious and not at all permanent." That my 

311 



FROM SAIL TO STEAIM 

turn for sea service had come was indisputable. I could 
pretend to no grievance, but I did want first to finish that 
book. Yet I have recalled with happiness that I was 
enabled to work steadfastly on, my pulse beating no quick- 
er for fear I should be interrupted and my task left un- 
finished. I remember a Boston publisher telling me of the 
anxiety felt by one of his distinguished chents, lest death 
should overtake him before that which he had planned was 
completed. The feeling is common to man, and one is 
touched by the apparent tragedy when men of promise and 
achievement are so removed, their aims unaccomplished, 
as were recently Professor Rawson Gardiner and Sir WiUiam 
Hunter; but it was given me early to realize that there 
is no such thing as being cut off unbetimes. If I were 
called at the end of a day's stint, or the pen fell from my 
hand in the midst of it, that which was appointed me 
was done; if well done, what mattered the rest? This 
quietness came to me through a chain of thought. I had 
been experiencing, as many others have, the weariness of 
a long-winded job, the end of which seemed to recede with 
each day's progress; and there came to my mind Long- 
fellow's "Village Blacksmith:" 

"Toiling, rejoicing, sorrowing, 
Onward through life he goes; 
Each morning sees some task begin, 
Each evening sees it close/' 

Would it were so with me! And a voice replied, " Is it not 
so with you? with all?" Since then I have imderstood; 
though the flesh is often weak, and even the calm of the 
study cannot always exclude the contagious fever of our 
American pace. In the particular juncture, the Secretary 
of the Navy, Mr. Tracy, took my view of relative impor- 
tances, and time was secured me. The manuscript was 
complete by the late spring of 1892, and the book pub- 

312 



EXPERIENCES OF AUTHORSHIP 

lished in December, having meantime been used for lect- 
ures in the first session of the College in its new building; 
a renewal of life which has since proved continuous. 

During this interval occurred another presidential cam- 
paign. Mr. Harrison was defeated and Mr. Cleveland 
elected. I was now ready to go to sea, but by this time 
had decided that authorship had for me greater attractions 
than following up my profession, and promised a fuller 
and more successful old age. I would have retired im- 
mediately, had I then fulfilled the necessary forty years' 
service; but of these I still lacked four. My purpose was 
to take up at once the AVar of 1812, while the history of 
the preceding events was fresh in my mind; and in this 
view I asked to be excused from sea duty, undertaking 
that I would retire w^hen my forty years were complete. 
The request was probably inadmissible, for I could have 
given no guarantees; and the precedent might have been 
bad. At any rate, it was not granted, luckily for me ; f r 
by a combination of unforeseen circumstances the ship to 
which I was ordered, the Chicago, was sent to Europe as 
flag-ship of that station, and on her visit to England, in 

1894, occasion was taken by naval officers and others to 
express in public manner their recognition of the value they 
thought my work had been to the appreciation of naval 
questions there. This brought my name forward in a way 
that could not but be flattering, and affected favorably the 
sale of the books; the previous readers of which had seem- 
ingly been few, though from among those few I had received 
pleasant compliments. Upon this followed the conferring 
upon me honorary degrees by the two universities; D.C.L. 
by Oxford, and LL.D. by Cambridge. After my return, in 

1895, LL.D. w^as extended also by Harvard, Yale, and 
Columbia, in the order named, and by McGill in Montreal. 

Another very pleasing and interesting experience while 
in London was dining with the Royal Navy Club. This 

313 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

is an ancient institution, dating back to the middle of the 
eighteenth century. Its Hst of members carries many cele- 
brated names, among others Nelson. It has no club-house, 
and exists as an organization only ; meeting for dinners on 
or near the dates of some half-dozen famous naval vic- 
tories, the anniversaries of which it thus commemorates 
yearly. There is by rule one guest of the evening, and one 
only, who is titularly the guest of the presiding officer; but 
on this occasion an exception was made for our admiral 
and myself. Unfortunately, he, who was much the better 
after-dinner speaker, was ill and could not attend. The 
rule thus remained intact, and I have imderstood that this 
was the first time in the history of the club that the guest 
had been a foreigner. 

The Chicago had left England and was lying at Antwerp 
when the time for conferring degrees arrived. My attend- 
ance in person was requisite, but only a week could be 
spared from the ship for the purpose. This made it impos- 
sible for me to be present in both cases at the high cere- 
monial, where the honors are bestowed upon the full group 
of recipients. Oxford had been first to tender me her dis- 
tinction, and I accordingly arranged my journey with a 
view to her celebration; two days before which I went 
down to Cambridge, and was there received and enrolled 
at a private audience, before the accustomed officials and 
some few visitors from outside. What the circumstances 
lacked in the pomp of numbers and observance, and in 
the consequent stimulus to interest which a very novel 
experience arouses, was compensated to me by the few 
hours of easy social intercourse with a few eminent per- 
sons, whom I had the pleasure of then meeting very in- 
formally. 

The great occasion at Oxford presents a curious com- 
bination of impress! veness and horse-play, such as is as- 
sociated with the Abbot of Misrule in the stories of the 

314 



EXPERIENCES OF AUTHORSHIP 

Middle Ages. It is this smack and suggestion of antiquity, 
of unnumbered such occasions in the misty past, when the 
student was half -scholar and half-ruffian, which make the 
permitted license of to-day not only tolerable, but in a 
sense even venerable. The good-humor and general ac- 
ceptance on both sides, by chaffers and chaffed, testified 
to recognized conditions; and there is about a hoary insti- 
tution a saving grace which cannot be transferred to jpar- 
venus. Practised in a modern Cis- Atlantic seat of learning, 
as I have seen it done, without the historical background, 
the same disregard of normal decorum becomes undraped 
rowdyism — boxing without gloves. The scene and its con- 
currences at Oxford have been witnessed by too many, and 
too often described, for me to attempt them. I shall nar- 
rate only my particular experiences. I had been desired to 
appear in full uniform — epaulettes, cocked hat, sword, and 
what is suggestively called "brass-bound'' coat; swallow- 
tailed, with a high collar stiffened with lining and gold 
lace, set off by trousers with a like broad stripe of lace, 
not inaptly characterized by some humorist as "railroad'' 
trousers. The theory of these last, I believe, is that so 
much decoration on hat and collar, if not balanced by an 
equivalent amount below, is top-heavy in visual effect, if 
not on personal stability. Whatever the reason, it is all 
there, and I had it all at Oxford ; all on my head and back, 
I mean, except the epaulettes. For to my concern I found 
that over all this paraphernaha I must also wear the red 
silk gown of a D.C.L. It became evident, immediately 
upon trial, that the silk and the epaulettes were agreeing 
like the Kilkenny cats, so it was conceded that these naval 
ornaments should be dispensed with; the more readily as 
they could not have been seen. In the blend, and for the 
occasion, my legal laurels prevailed over my professional 
exterior. 

In the matter of dress my life certainly culminated when 

315 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

I walked up — or clown — High Street in Oxford with cock- 
ed hat, red silk gown, and sword, the railroad trousers 
modestly peeping beneath. It must be admitted that the 
townsmen either had more than French politeness, or else 
were used to incongruities. I did not see one crack a smile ; 
whether any turned to look or not, I did not turn to see. 
My hospitable escort and myseK joined the other expect- 
ants before the Sheldonian Theatre, where the ceremonies 
are held. The audience, of both sexes, visitors and students, 
had already crammed the benches and galleries of the great 
circular interior when we marched to our seats, in single 
file, down a narrow aisle. The fim, doubtless, had been 
going on already some time; but for us it was non-existent 
till we entered, when the hose was turned full upon us and 
our several peculiarities. I am bound to say that to en- 
courage us we got quite as many cheers as chaff, and the 
personalities which flew about like grape-shot were pretty 
much hit or miss. I noticed that some one from aloft call- 
ed out, "Why don^t you have your hair cut?" which I 
afterwards imderstood was a delicate allusion to my some- 
what unparalleled baldness; but it happened that two be- 
hind me in the procession was a very distinguished Russian 
scientist, like myself a D.C.L. in ovo, whose long locks fell 
over his collar, and I innocently supposed that so pertinent 
a remark was addressed to him on an occasion when im- 
pertinence was lord of the ascendant. Thus the shaft 
passed me harmless, or fell back blunted from my triple 
armor of dulness. 

Although in itself in most ways enjoyable, the cruise of 
the Chicago while it lasted necessarily suspended author- 
ship. I heard intimations of the common opinion that the 
leisure of a naval officer's life would afford abundant op- 
portunit}^ Even I myself for a moment imagined that 
time in some measure might be found for accumulating 
material, for which purpose I took along several books; 

316 



EXPERIENCES OF AUTHORSHIP 

but it was in vain. Neither a ship nor a book is patient 
of a rival, and I soon ceased the effort to serve both. Night 
work was tried, contrary to my habit ; but after a few weeks 
I had to recognize that the evening's exertion had dulled 
my head for the next morning's duties. 

My orders not only interrupted writing, but changed its 
direction for a long while. I had foreseen that the War of 
1812, as a whole, must be flat in interest as well as laborious 
in execution; and, upon the provocation of other duty, I 
readily turned from it in distaste. Nine years elapsed be- 
fore I took it up ; and then rather under the compulsion of 
completing my Sea Power series, as first designed, than 
from any inclination to the theme. It occupied three 
years — usefully, I hope — and was published in 1905. Re- 
garded as history, it is by far the most thorough work I 
have done. I went largely to original documents in Wash- 
ington, Ottawa, and London, and I believe I have con- 
tributed to the particular period something new in both 
material and interpretation. But, whatever value the book 
may possess to one already drawn to the subject, it is im- 
possible to infuse charm where from the facts of the case 
it does not exist. As a Chinese portrait-painter is said to 
have remonstrated with a discontented patron, " How can 
pretty face make, when pretty face no have got?" 

Thus my orders to the Chicago led to dropping 1812, and 
to this my Life of Nelson was directly due. The project 
had already occurred to me, for the conspicuous elements 
of human as well as professional interest could not well 
escape one who had just been following him closely in his 
military career. Sea Power in the French Revolution 
having been published less than six months before, the 
framework of external events, into which his actions must 
be fitted, was fresh in my recollection, as was also the 
analysis of his campaigns and battles, available at once for 
fuller treatment, more directly biographical. After consul- 

317 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

tation with my publishers I decided to undertake the work, 
and with reference to it chiefly I provided myself reading- 
matter. I have already said that the experiment of writ- 
ing on board did not succeed. I composed part of the 
first chapter and then stopped; but the purpose remained, 
and was resumed very soon after leaving the Chicago , in 
May, 1895. 

For the writing of biography I had formed a theory of 
my own, a guiding principle, closely akin to the part which 
sea power had played in my treatment of history. This 
leading idea was not intended to exclude other points of 
view or manners of presentation, but was to subordinate 
them somewhat peremptorily. As defined to myself, my 
plan was to realize personality by living with the man, in 
as close familiarity as was consistent with the fact of his 
being dead. This was to be done first for myself, as the 
necessary prelude to transmission to my readers. T\Tien 
there remains a huge mass of correspondence, by one as 
frank in utterance and copious in self-revelation as was 
Nelson, the opportunity to get on terms of such intimacy 
is unique, one-sided though the commimication is. Be- 
sides, companions and subordinates have left abundant 
records of their association with him, which constitute, as 
it were, the other side of conversation ; relieving the mono- 
logue of his own letters. The first thing in order is to 
know the living man; and it seemed to me that, with such 
materials, this could be accomplished most fully by steep- 
ing one's self in them, creating an environment closely 
analogous to the intercourse of daily life. I believed that 
passive surrender to these impressions, rather than con- 
scious labored effort, would gradually produce the per- 
ceptions of immediate contact, to the utmost that the 
nature of the case admitted. Johnson doubtless was right 
in naming personal acquaintance as chief among the qual- 
ifications of a biographer; failing that, one must seek the 

318 



EXPERIENCES OF AUTHORSHIP 

best substitute. By either method the conception of char- 
acter and temperament is formed; its reproduction to 
readers is a matter of power of expression, and of capacity 
to introduce aptly, here and there, the minute touches by 
which an artist secures hkeness and heightens effect. 

Whatever ;he worth of this theory, it was due in large 
measure to revulsion from a form of biography, to me al- 
ways displeasing and essentially crude, which gives a nar- 
rative of external life -events, disjointed continually by 
letters. Profuse recourse to letters simply turns over to 
the reader the task which the biographer has undertaken 
to do for him. Perhaps the biographer cannot do it. Then 
he had better not undertake the job. A collection of let- 
ters is one thing, a biography another; and they do not mix 
well when a career abounds in incident. Letters are ma- 
terial for biography, as original documents are material for 
history; but as docimients are not history, so letters are 
not biography. The historian and biographer by publishing 
virtually contract to present their readers with a digested, 
reasoned whole ; the best expression, full yet balanced, that 
they can give of the truth concerning a period, or a man. 
It is a labor of time and patience, and should be also of 
love ; one which the reader is to be spared, on the principle 
that a thousand men should not have to do, each for him- 
self, the work the one writer professes. It is no fair treat- 
ment to tumble at their feet a basketful of papers, and 
virtually say, "There! find out the man for yourself." 

The interest of lives, of course, varies, and with it the 
opportunity of the biographer. I do not mean in degree, 
which is trite to remark, but in kind, which is less recog- 
nized. There are men the value of whose memory to their 
race lies in their thought and words, whose career is un- 
eventful. Yet even wdth them the impression of personal- 
ity is not as vividly produced by masses of correspondence 
as it may be by the petty occurrences of daily life, which 

319 



FROM SAIL TO STEAxM 

for them are the analogues of the stirring incidents that 
mark the course of the man of pubhc action, statesman or 
warrior. The reason is plain; the character of few rises 
to the height of their words, written or spoken. These 
show their wisdom, or power, and are uplifting; but their 
shortcomings, too, have a virtue. We fight the better for 
appreciating that victors have known defeat. The su- 
preme gift of biography to mankind is personality; not 
what the man thought or did, but what he was. Herein 
is inspiration and reproof; motive force, inspiring or de- 
terrent. If nothing better, mere recognition, or exultation 
in an excellence to which we do not attain, has a saving 
grace of its own. 

For the purposes of his biographer, Dr. Johnson scarce- 
ly left London. Beyond a brief visit to Paris, only a tour 
through the Hebrides; this an event so colossal in its ele- 
vation above the flat level of his outward existence, like 
the church towers in a Dutch landscape, that it is treat- 
ed as a thing quite apart, has a volume to itself, severed 
from its before and after. Boswell gives letters, certain- 
ly, and many; yet, in the matter of character portrayal, 
what are they alongside of the talk? And also, more per- 
tinent, what to Boswell was even the talk, compared with 
the intercourse to which the talk was incident? In this 
he immersed himself and his strong receptive powers, ab- 
sorbing the impression which he has so skilfully repro- 
duced. Such apprehension as Boswell thus gained for 
himself is no neutral acquirement; it is a working force, 
instinctively selective from that on which it feeds, and in- 
tuitive in its power of arrangement. To copy his result is 
futile. Like Nelson, there is but one Boswell; but it may 
be permitted to believe that lesser men will profit to the ex- 
tent of their capacities by adopting his method. This pos- 
sibly he never formulated, in that again proving his genius, 
the unconscious faculty of a very self-conscious man; but 

320 



EXPERIENCES OF AUTHORSHIP 

I conceiv^e the process to have been, first know your sub- 
ject yourself thoroughly by close contact and sympathy, 
and then so handle your material as to bring out to the 
reader the image revealed to you. 

This is, in a measure, a plea for picturesque treatment of 
biography and of history; not by gaudy coloring and vio- 
lent contrasts, striving after rhetorical effect, but in the 
observance of proportion, of grouping, of subordination 
to a central idea; not content with mere narration, how- 
ever accurate in details. A narrative which fails in por- 
trayal, in picturesque impression, is not accurate; and a 
biography which presents a man's thoughts and acts, yet 
does not over and above them fashion his personality to 
the reader, is a failure. How much conscious effort may 
be necessary to the due handling of materials, I certainly 
cannot undertake to say; but persuaded I am that the 
utmost results possible to any particular man can be at- 
tained only by passive assimilation, and that so they will 
be attained to the measure of his individual capacity. By 
such digestion a theme apparently dry may be quickened 
to interest. Though not a lawyer, nor a student of con- 
stitutions, I found Stubbs's Constitutional History of Eng- 
land fascinating. I have not analyzed my pleasure, but I 
believe it to have been due to portrayal; to arrangement 
of data by a man exceptionally gifted for vivid presenta- 
tion, who had so lived with his subject that it had realized 
itself to him as a living whole, which he successfully con- 
veyed to his readers. There is no disj ointment. The re- 
sult is a great historical picture; or a biography, of law 
as a benevolent developing personality, moving amid the 
struggles and miseries of the human throng, healing and 
redressing. 

To The Life of Nelson I applied the idea of this method, 
which I thought to be helped rather than hindered by my 
warm admiration for him, little short of affection. I had 

321 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

faith in the power of attachment to comprehend character 
and action; and because of mine I beheved myself safer 
when necessary to censure. I grieved while I condemned. 
I was sure also that, however far below an absolute best 
I might fall, the best that I could do must thus come out. 
Amid approval sufficient to gratify me, I found most satis- 
faction in that of a friend who said he felt as if he had 
been hving with my hero; and of another who told me 
that after his day's work, which I knew to be laborious, 
he had refreshed his evenings with Nelson. In the first 
edition I fell into tw^o mistakes of some importance, as well 
as others in small details, the effect of which was to confirm 
me in my theory; for while they were blemishes, and needed 
correction, they did not, and do not, to my mind affect the 
portrait — the conveyance of true personality. 

Of these errors the most serious, regarded as a fault, 
was an inadequate study of Nelson's course at Naples in 
1799, so sharply challenged at that time and afterwards. 
I recognized the justice of a criticism which alleged that I 
had not sufficiently examined the other side of the case, as 
presented by Italian authors. This I now did, rewriting 
my account for the second edition. I found no reason to 
change my estimate of Nelson's conduct, but rather to 
confirm the favorable aspects; but what was more in- 
structive to me was that even so large an oversight did not 
when remedied affect the portrait. The personahty re- 
mained as first conceived; Nelson had acted in character. 
The same was substantially true of a more pregnant in- 
cident, the discovery of a number of his letters to his wife, 
which had escaped the diligent search made by the editor 
of his correspondence. Sir Harris Nicolas. After lying con- 
cealed for the half-century between Nicolas and myself, 
they turned up shortly after my book was in print. Here 
was more self -revelation ; how might it modify my picture ? 
The event was ushered in with a great flourish of trum- 

322 



EXPERIENCES OF AUTHORSHIP 

pets, the walls of Jericho were about to fall, and I own I 
felt anxious. Some of the letters were published; per- 
mission to see the others was refused me. As these have 
not since been given to the world, I fancy that they sustain 
the opinion expressed by me on those that were; that be- 
yond emphasizing somewhat his hardness to Lady Nelson 
during the period of his growing alienation, they add httle 
to the impression before formed. A slight touch of the 
brush, another line in the face, that is all. 

The question of Nelson's action at Naples was brought 
forward in a way which required from me some controver- 
sial writing. To this I have no intention of alluding here, 
beyond stating that up to the present my confidence has 
not been shaken in my defence of the main lines of his con- 
duct, clearing him of the deceit and double-dealing alleged 
against him. I say this because there may be some 
who have thought me silenced by argument, in that I 
have not seen fit to rise to such crude taunts as that, 
"After this Captain Mahan w^ill not undertake," etc. What 
Captain Mahan will or will not do is of no particular im- 
portance; but when the repute of such an one as Nelson 
is at stake, burdened by the weight of calumny laid upon 
him by Southey's ill-instructed censures, it is right to re- 
peat that nothing I have seen since I last wrote, about 
1900, has appeared to me to call for further answer. 

The Life of Nelson^ and The War of 1812, of which I have 
already spoken, remain my last extensive works. In the 
interval between them, 1897-1902, I was engaged mostly 
in occasional writing, for magazines or otherwise. From 
time to time these papers have been collected and pub- 
lished, under titles which seemed appropriate. Concern- 
ing them, for the most part, there is one general state- 
ment to be made. With few exceptions, they have been 
written to order. Partly from indisposition to this par- 
ticular activity, partly from indolence, ultimately from 

323 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

conviction that editors best know — or should know — 
what the pubhc want, I have left them to come to me. 
When expedient, I have taken a subject somewhat apart 
from that suggested, but usually akin. Speaking again 
generally, the field of thought into w^hich I have been thus 
drawn has been that of the external policy of nations, and 
of their mutual — international — relations; not in respect 
to international law, on which I have no claim to teach, 
but to the examination of extant conditions, and the ap- 
preciation of their probable and proper effect upon future 
events and present action. In conception, these studies 
are essentially military. The conditions are to my appre- 
hension forces, contending, perhaps even conflicting; to be 
handled by those responsible as a government disposes its 
fleets and armies. This is not advocacy of w^ar, but recog- 
nition that the providential movement of the world pro- 
ceeds through the pressure of circumstances; and that ad- 
verse circumstances can be controlled only by organization 
of means, in which armed physical power is one dominant 
factor. 

In direct result from the line of thought into which I was 
drawn by my conception of sea power, and which has in- 
spired my subsequent magazine writing, I am frankly an 
imperialist, in the sense that I believe that no nation, cer- 
tainly no great nation, should henceforth maintain the 
policy of isolation which fitted our early history; above 
all, should not on that outhved plea refuse to intervene 
in events obviously thrust upon its conscience. The world 
of national acti\nties has become crowded, like the world 
of professions; opportunity, consequently, has diminished, 
and possibiUties must be cultivated and husbanded. This 
is the primary duty of a government to its own people and 
to their posterity. But there are other duties which must 
be accepted, even though they entail national sacrifice, be- 
cause laid at the nation's door, like Cuba, or forced upon 

324 



EXPERIENCES OE AUTHORSHIP 

its decision, like the Philippines. I see too clearly in my- 
self the miserable disposition to shirk work and care, and 
responsibility, to condone the same in nations. I once 
heard a preacher thus parody effectively the words of the 
prophet — ''Here am I, send himr And I have heard at- 
tributed to the late Mr. John Hay an equally telUng allu- 
sion to certain of our moralists, who would discard the 
Phihppines on the score of danger to the national prin- 
ciples. Said a pious girl, " When I realized that personal 
ornaments were dragging my immortal soul to hell, I gave 
them to my sister." Still less, let us hope, will one of the 
wealthiest of nations, almost alone in the possession of an 
abundant surplus income, desert a charge on the poor plea 
of economy ; or so far distrust its fate, as to turn its back 
upon a duty, because dangerous or troublesome. If the 
political independence of the Philippine Islands bid fair 
to result in the loss, or lessening, of the safeguards of per- 
sonal freedom to the private Philippine islander, the mis- 
sion of the United States is at present clear, nor can it 
be abandoned without national discredit; nay, national 
crime. Personal liberty is a greater need than political 
independence, the chief value of which is to insure the 
freedom of the individual. Similarly, not only for the sake 
of its own citizens, but for the world at large, each coimtry 
should diligently watch and weigh current external occur- 
rences; not necessarily to meddle, still less to forsake its 
proper sphere, but because convinced that failure to act 
when occasion demands may be as injurious as mistaken 
action, and indicates a more dangerous condition, in that 
moral inadequacy means ultimately material decline. 
When the spirit leaves the body, the body decays. 

In these subjects and my way of viewing them, I sup- 
pose that ten years ago, before our war with Spain, I was 
ahead of the times, at least in my own country, and to some 
extent helped to turn thought into present channels; much 

325 



FROM SAIL TO STEAM 

as to my exposition of sea power has been credited a part 
of the impulse to naval development which characterizes 
to-day. Immediately after the Spanish War I seemed to 
some, if I may trust their words, to have done a bit of 
prophecy; while others laid to my door a chief share in 
the mistaken direction they considered the country to 
be taking. Of course, I was pleased by this; I have never 
pretended to be above flattery judiciously administered; 
but, while confident still in the main outlook of my 
writing, I know too well that, when you come to details, 
prediction is a matter of hit or miss, and that I have 
often missed as well as hit in particulars. "It is all a 
matter of guess," said Nelson, when tied down to a specific 
decision, "but the world attributes wisdom to him who 
guesses right." This is less true of the big questions and 
broad lines of contemporary history. There insight can 
discern really something of tendencies; enough to guide 
judgment or suggest reflection. But I am now sixty-seven, 
and can recognize in myself a growing conservatism, 
which may probably limit me henceforth to bare keep- 
ing up with the procession in the future national march. 
Perhaps I may lag behind. With years, speculation as 
well as action becomes less venturesome, and I look in- 
creasingly to the changeless past as the quiet field for my 
future labors. 



THE END 





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